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U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014

• February 20, 2012 12:29 pm

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Despite misunderstanding over comments recently made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the transfer of power in Afghanistan, U.S. troops will remain in the country beyond 2014, the Washington Post reports:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta provoked a widespread misunderstanding this month when he spoke of the U.S. military’s changing mission in Afghanistan, to that of an advisory role. Media reports of Panetta’s comments indicated that this meant U.S. forces would speed up their withdrawal from that country, when the White House has yet to make any such decision and the basic strategy of transition is unchanged.

Compounding the confusion is the public’s misunderstanding of the current policy in Afghanistan — of transferring the "security lead" to the Afghans at the end of 2014 — the basic strategy of which remains unchanged.

This transfer is not a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. Rather, the policy is that, after 2014, the Afghans will do the bulk of the fighting but will still have advisers from abroad in combat with them. U.S. forces are still expected to supply air support, artillery, medical evacuation and combat logistics after 2014 because the Afghan army will have none of these support services ready before 2016 at the earliest. The U.S. role will shift, but it is critically important to understand that, in the shift to a mission mainly devoted to advising and supporting — whatever the terms used — our forces will still be fighting on the ground, before, during and after 2014.

Published under: Afghanistan, Leon Panetta