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Capture of Kunduz could mean more US troops will stay in Afghanistan

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. drawdown of forces in Afghanistan could once again stall as military leaders and advisers weigh the options in the wake of the Taliban’s seizure Monday of a key city in the country’s north.

The seizure of Kunduz from the U.S.-trained Afghan National Security Forces has raised questions about the country’s ability to defend itself from extremists in the absence of the U.S. military.

According to the Wall Street Journal, military leaders will once again advise the president to retain a larger force in Afghanistan than he’d initially planned.

U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell, the top military commander in Afghanistan, has provided Pentagon and NATO officials five plans addressing the drawdown, according to the newspaper.

Campbell’s options include maintaining current troop levels through 2016, or shrinking them to 8,000, 5,000 or less than 1,000. Campbell is expected to testify in front of Congress next week.

A Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday that the Department of Defense has not made a formal recommendation to President Barack Obama about the drawdown. Any such guidance, said Army Maj. Roger Cabiness, would include input from Obama’s national security team, commanders on the ground in Afghanistan including Campbell, and the Afghan government and military.

For now, Cabiness said, the Pentagon remains committed to the president’s current plan, which calls for the current level of 9,800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan, primarily serving in an advisory role, through the end of 2015.

However, he said, it has not yet been determined how quickly it will draw down to less than 1,000 troops next year.

“The specific trajectory of the 2016 drawdown will be established later this year to enable our final consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016, with a security assistance component,” he said.

The loss of Kunduz, which might only be temporary as the Afghans regrouped to launch a counteroffensive, was an obvious “setback” for the ANSF, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Tuesday. It’s the first seizure of a major city by the Taliban since 2001.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC
 

Gen. John F. Campbell, Commander, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, speaks during a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2015.
JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

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