Don't shrink Afghan forces, two key Senate Democrats warn Obama

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:32pm EST

1 of 2. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (R) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) arrive at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2013 and the Future Years Defense Program on Capitol Hill in Washington February 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Senate Democrats urged the White House on Friday to reconsider plans to shrink Afghan national security forces by a third after 2015, saying a robust Afghan fighting force will be needed to fight al Qaeda and its allies.

The appeal comes as President Barack Obama weighs how large of an American force to leave behind in Afghanistan after NATO declares the costly, unpopular war over at the end of 2014 and most foreign forces return home.

Officials say the White House is considering keeping between 3,000 and 9,000 troops in the country, a lower range than initially recommended by the top commander in Afghanistan.

Carl Levin of Michigan, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and committee member Jack Reed of Rhode Island said Obama, a fellow Democrat, should use the U.S. troop level announcement - expected in the coming months - as an opportunity to revisit plans to slash the Afghan forces from 352,000 to 230,000 after 2015.

"We support the establishment of a small number for the post-2014 (American) force," they wrote to Tom Donilon, Obama's national security adviser.

"At the same time, we are convinced that it will be necessary for the success of the mission, i.e., to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations, to reconsider plans to reduce the size of the (Afghan forces)."

Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, has estimated that the United States would end up paying about $2.5 billion a year for Afghan security forces totaling 230,000.

He called the expense "pretty cheap insurance."

Levin and Reed said the additional expense for keeping a larger Afghan force would be affordable, given the projected drop in funding for wartime operations.

"We recommend that when the president announces his decision on the post-2014 force, that he also announce he is reviewing the question of the size of the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) after 2015," they wrote.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (9)
justinolcb wrote:
will someone please take note that DEMOCRATS disagree with the current resident of the tax-payer’s mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Jan 18, 2013 9:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Vilavicki wrote:
We should follow the plan that President Obama decided on to get the troops out of Afghanistan in 2014. Two Democrats, one being Leon Penetta and the other Carl Levin are not the ones to will be deciding this issue. Americans want out. Get our troops home. It will save so much money and lives.

Jan 18, 2013 11:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Mott wrote:
Nice try.

Jan 19, 2013 12:14am EST  --  Report as abuse
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