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Barack Obama announced last year that the full 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan, the so-called surge force, will be withdrawn by later this year.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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora