The Afghan Withdrawal That Isn’t

The Obama administration is to make a decision in the next few weeks on the size of America’s “enduring presence” in Afghanistan. Just Foreign Policy tells us what that really means.

Panetta would not comment on the troop levels being considered. However, last August, the press began reporting that the Pentagon was pushing for a 25,000 troop enduring presence. That number is still being floated. Responding to these reports last month, Marc Grossman, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that the 25,000 troops figure is “speculative” and that a number has yet to be decided upon. Grossman did not, however, deny that the Pentagon is pushing for the 25,000 troops. A 15,000 troop figure has also been floated around in the press.

It is worth noting that there were only 34,000 troops in Afghanistan when Obama took office. If 25,000 troops were kept in Afghanistan after 2014, that would mean that the net withdrawal would be a mere 9,000 troops. Furthermore, before 2008, troop levels were at roughly 25,000 or less. So leaving 25,000 troops in Afghanistan would be to merely return to 2007 troop levels. Leaving 15,000 troops would be a return to 2004-2005 troop levels.

The decision about post-2014 troop numbers will not include a timetable for the removal of US troops over the next two years, according to CNN. There are  about 68,000 US troops left in Afghanistan. There is no plan currently in place for their withdrawal.

The decision about troop levels is also likely to include an end date for what is already US’s longest war. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the US and Afghanistan earlier this year suggests a US troop presence until at least 2024.

No word yet on the rumor I’m hearing that the 25,000 or so troops will be rebranded as the Jill Kelley Corps of “honorary consuls” and “social liasons”.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Good to know that the only troop numbers that matter are the numbers that pertain to US troops. Without factoring in the shifts in numbers from the other contributors this is an almost completely context free set of numbers that gives basically zero insight into anything other than a narrowly defined American political talking point.

    • Well, in context they are. We all know Dem partisans are going to claim Obama ended the war in Afghanistan, just as they do with Iraq, and at that point knowing there’s only a few thousand less troops still in Afghanistan for a decade than the US started with actually does matter to the US political discourse.

      • This figure matters a whole hell of a lot less than the notion that the number has shifted a few thousand while the fraction of troops that are American has gone up by a lot (IIRC from about a quarter to about 70%). That the context free number is the focus of political discourse rather than a more context rich number simply illustrates how stupid and ill informed by reality American political discourse is. You want to make a difference? Don’t feed dumb discourse.

        Near as I can tell we’ve now spent about a hundred times more effort highlighting how some folks can’t keep their genitals to themselves than we have trying to determine why it is that the high level military-politico strategy process is fundamentally broken. Only one of these topics actually amounts to more than a hill of beans.

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