Dunford Expects Nearly 14,000 Troops in Post-War Afghanistan

ISAF Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 12, 2014.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

AA Font size + Print

ISAF Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 12, 2014.

Gen. Joseph Dunford says NATO nations will contribute 4,000 troops to join President Obama's post-war mission in Afghanistan. By Kevin Baron

BRUSSELS The top Afghanistan war commander, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said he is confident that NATO members will contribute at least 4,000 additional conventional military forces to the post-war mission in Afghanistan, which when combined with the American commitment of 9,800 would bring the total number of foreign troops to 13,800.

Additional contributions of elite special operation forces from allied countries like Great Britain and Australia could drive the foreign troop total in Afghanistan much higher.

President Barack Obama announced last week that he wants to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through 2015 and then cut that number down over the next 2 years. Other NATO leaders will hold a “force generation” conference later this month to determine their own troop commitments, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, at NATO headquarters on Wednesday.

A senior U.S. military official said the 9,800 American troops will consist of 8,000 conventional forces to conduct the “train, advise, assist” mission, and 1,800 counterterrorism forces. 

Right now, I don’t have any concerns getting to 12,000,” Dunford said, referring to the 8,000 to 12,000 range he recommended to Obama. With the president’s announcement, which sets troops limits, a timeline and a budget, U.S. commanders will begin planning the details of counterterrorism mission for the region.

The president’s plan was criticized sharply on Capitol Hill for leaving too few forces in Afghanistan beyond the war, and for setting a deadline to draw down to nearly zero by 2017. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama’s plan would result in a repeat of the withdrawal from Iraq, which in the absence of U.S. troops since December 2011 has fallen into extreme violence.

But the senior U.S. military official said they have heard no complaints in Kabul. “We’ve had a host of congressional delegations come through, as recently as last week. I mean, we have a lot of congressional delegations come through,” the U.S. military official said.  “I’ll be honest with you, we have not had a single member that’s come through that’s taken issue with what we’ve outlined, in terms of the campaign, and who hasn’t left saying they had a better appreciation for where the Afghan security forces are right now and what we’re trying to do.”

Dunford said the plan for Afghanistan over the next 3 years will be different than Iraq because “what was outlined is not a withdraw plan. It’s a transition.” By the end of the mission in 2017, hundreds of U.S. military personal will remain, directing exercises, advising the Afghan military, and managing billions in foreign financing.

It’s not a zero option,” the official said.

Pentagon officials are dismissing criticism that setting deadlines will empower the Taliban and encourage them to “wait it out.”

“A couple of significant things have happened,” the official said. The Taliban’s two main messages – that U.S. troops are occupiers that will abandon Afghanistan – are challenged. It’s hard for Taliban to call the U.S. occupiers with an announced withdrawal timeline and with Afghan forces now leading security, people don’t see foreign coalition forces daily anymore. On the charge of abandonment, the official said “we just stated we’ll be there” until 2017 and beyond.

“I think that’s changed the calculus for the enemy.”

The successful presidential election, new NATO commitments at the Wales summit in September, and an upcoming transfer of power in Afghanistan mean that the Taliban have lost political room to move in a significant change from the beginning of this year.

I believe there is friction in the Taliban,” Dunford said. “If you compare the political space of the Taliban” from early this year when they were challenging the election process until the end of this year after the NATO summit and a new president is installed, “it’s significantly reduced.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • GBC Issue Brief: Supply Chain Insecurity

    Federal organizations rely on state-of-the-art IT tools and systems to deliver services efficiently and effectively, and it takes a vast ecosystem of organizations, individuals, information, and resources to successfully deliver these products. This issue brief discusses the current threats to the vulnerable supply chain - and how agencies can prevent these threats to produce a more secure IT supply chain process.

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.