KABUL: A US senator leading a bipartisan delegation to Afghanistan on Saturday called on President Barack Obama to announce a decision on his plans for future troop levels in the country, on the assumption a much-delayed security pact eventually will eventually be signed with Kabul.
During a visit to Afghanistan, Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a Republican, stressed that no American forces would remain in the country without a bilateral security agreement, but also said Obama should not wait for that to give an idea of what the US presence would look like after the Nato-led combat mission ends at the end of this year. “I believe that it is time for our president to do this so that the people of Afghanistan understand that we remain committed in Afghanistan,” Ayotte said, stressing that any post-2014 force would be contingent on the pact being signed. “He can no longer delay this decision.”
Ayotte, who is a member of the Senate armed services committee, said she also urged the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign the deal, to change his mind. She also criticised the government’s decision to release detainees formerly held by US-led forces and considered dangerous.
The top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, testified at a Senate armed services committee hearing last week that he would feel comfortable with a residual international force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops if the deal is signed. He said the US would provide two-thirds of those troops and would keep an additional few thousand forces in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism operations.
Obama has yet to make a decision on the size of a post-2014 US force in Afghanistan after a 13-year war that has become highly unpopular among the American public. “I hope our president will announce as soon as possible that contingent on signing the BSA and contingent on a responsible way of dealing with the detainees that protects both Afghans and Americans and our allies that we will leave a follow-on force consistent with General Dunford’s recommendations,” Ayotte said at a news conference at the US embassy here. The Guardian