News / USA

US Officials Downplay 'Zero Option' for US Troops in Afghanistan

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins, June 27, 2013.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins, June 27, 2013.
Michael Bowman
High-ranking Obama administration officials have downplayed the likelihood of complete military disengagement from Afghanistan, but provided little insight on negotiations for a residual U.S. troop presence in the country beyond next year.  Senior officials testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.

What has America’s 12-year engagement in Afghanistan helped achieve?  Quite a lot, according to the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, James Dobbins.

“Life expectancy has gone from 44 years to 60 years.  Afghanistan has gone from having the worst literacy rate in the entire world, maybe 15 percent, to 33 percent literacy today.  Going from one TV station that was government-owned to 75, nearly all independent.  Going from 40,000 telephones to 18 million telephones.  Cell phone coverage going from zero to 90 percent of the country.  These are pretty remarkable outcomes," said Dobbins.

And U.S. and NATO efforts to train Afghan security forces are also succeeding, according to the Pentagon’s top official for Asian security matters, Peter Lavoy.

“These [Afghan] forces are out there leading combat operations throughout the country.  Despite heavy fighting, the Afghans are holding the gains of recent years.  And the Taliban must come to grips with the fact that they cannot defeat the Afghan National Security Forces militarily," said Lavoy.

How Afghan forces would hold up on their own is an open question.  The United States is to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year.  So far, the Obama administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have been unable to agree on a residual American troop presence beyond 2014.  U.S. officials are not ruling out a so-called “zero option” - meaning no troops - if negotiations fail, but James Dobbins sees that possibility as remote.

“Of course, without an agreement on our presence in Afghanistan, we would not remain.  But we do not believe that is the likely outcome of these negotiations.  The Afghans actually need us to stay.  Most Afghans want us to stay, and we have promised to stay," he said.

Several lawmakers expressed frustration with what they see as a lack of clarity by President Barack Obama on America’s future in Afghanistan. Republican Senator Bob Corker characterized some of Karzai’s reported beliefs and negotiating positions as “crazy”, but noted that Afghanistan will have a new leader next year.

“I am asking this administration to look beyond Karzai - he is going to be gone in April - to look at our national interest, to make some decision with clarity and show some world leadership," said Corker.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez spelled out what he sees as the bottom line:

“The United States needs to make clear once again that we are committed to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan. Period," said Menedez.

Menendez added, however, that it is President Karzai who will decide whether that partnership materializes, saying, “The ball is in his court.”

Related video report by Kokab Farshori:

Afghanistan 'Zero Option' May Have Repercussions for Regioni
X
July 11, 2013 10:22 PM
Earlier this week, the White House said a decision on pulling out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014 is not imminent but it is an option "on the table." Many experts say U.S. policymakers are increasingly frustrated in their negotiations with Afghanistan's government on a continued military presence in Afghanistan after that date. The senior U.S. diplomat for Afghanistan told Congress this week he believes an agreement will be reached, and as VOA's Kokab Farshori reports, a number of experts say it is in the interests of both governments to avoid the so called "zero-option" plan.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs