News / USA

Panetta Remarks Illuminate US Thinking on Afghanistan Timeline

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta briefs the media on board a plane en route to a NATO conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 1, 2012.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta briefs the media on board a plane en route to a NATO conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 1, 2012.

Remarks late Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan could begin shifting from combat to a training and advisory role as early as mid-2013 are a significant development.

The United States and its partners in NATO agreed at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010 to turn over security responsibilities to Afghan forces by 2014.

Since then, it has been generally assumed U.S. troops would fully carry out their combat role through 2013 to ensure that Taliban forces are not able to undermine gains made on the ground.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced last year that the full 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan, the so-called surge force, will be withdrawn by later this year.

He made that withdrawal plan a key part of the foreign policy portion of his recent State of the Union address.

"We’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.  Ten-thousand of our troops have come home.  Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer.  This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America," he said.

With his Afghanistan strategy, and the fulfillment last year of his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq, Mr. Obama has spoken of the "tide of war" receding, saying the U.S should focus more attention on needs at home.

Secretary Panetta's comments to reporters accompanying him to NATO meetings in Brussels are a major development in what is known about the Obama administration's thinking about the Afghanistan timeline, but are not the first talk of transition beginning next year.

After France announced its intention to withdraw its forces by next year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the transition to an Afghan security lead would begin in mid-2013.

Paraag Shukla, a former U.S. intelligence officer and now a senior research fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, had this assessment in an interview with VOA’s Pashto language service.
“What I think he’s trying to describe is that as we slowly transfer certain areas in Afghanistan to Afghan national security forces, our forces who are currently there are going to take on an increasingly advisory role.  And so they’ll still be there in significant numbers depending on where in the country you’re discussing,” Shukla said.

Secretary Panetta underscored Mr. Obama's determination that the U.S. will have "an enduring presence" in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and said no final decisions have been made on exact U.S. troop levels after that.

Asked for comment on Panetta's remarks, White House officials directed questions to the Department of Defense.

In political speeches, President Obama stresses progress toward a final withdrawal.  He told supporters in Washington this week that he is "managing a responsible transition in Afghanistan."

This is bound to be a major talking point for the president against an emerging Republican challenger ahead of the November presidential election.  Another key talking point for Mr. Obama -- his support for Pentagon spending reduction plans, an issue directly linked to foreign operations like Afghanistan.

If conditions on the ground in Afghanistan do permit a U.S. transition to an advisory and training role beginning in mid-2013, Mr. Obama will be able to direct the attention of war-weary Americans to another milestone.

At the same time, he is likely to face predictable criticism from lawmakers in Congress, and from Republican presidential challengers, that confirming any sort of transition prior to the 2014 NATO target date will only embolden Taliban forces and undermine progress.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid