US Officials Reevaluating Afghanistan Pullback After Islamic State Surge in Iraq

U.S. soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan / AP

U.S. military officials and allies are becoming more worried of the Obama administration’s plan to reduce U.S. presence in Afghanistan and are as a result reviewing new options that include maintaining a force of thousands of troops after the end of 2016.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The top international commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell, has sent five different recommendations to the Pentagon and to North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials in Brussels, each with its own risk assessment, officials said. The options include keeping the current U.S. presence at or near 10,000; reducing it slightly to 8,000; cutting the force roughly in half; and continuing with current plans to draw down to a force of several hundred troops by the end of 2016.

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Officials are particularly worried that reducing the troop level by too much could result in the Afghan government forces weakening under pressure from the Taliban and other militant groups. It was after the U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 that the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) began its rise in the Middle East.

Critics and military leaders have said that the Iraqi forces would have been better equipped to combat IS had the American military kept several thousand advisers in Iraq. Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, for example, said ahead of his retirement this year that the U.S. military could have "prevented" the rise of IS had the Obama administration left troops in Iraq beyond 2011.

Despite the administration’s bomb campaign, the Islamic State’s force in the Middle East has seen no reduction in size, according to U.S. intelligence.

The Department of Defense has yet to issue any formal recommendations of a change to plans for troops in Afghanistan. President Obama has insisted that he will scale back U.S. troops in Afghanistan to a small force by the time he leaves the White House at the end of next year.

The Taliban has reclaimed territory from Afghan security forces in recent months that U.S. and British troops fought to secure.