Washington: The US military is asking President Barack Obama to maintain the 33,000 troop surge force in Afghanistan until the fall of 2012 to keep a large
portion of the extra personnel in the country through the next
two heavy fighting seasons, a media report today said.
The extra 33,000 US troops were pumped into
Afghanistan as part of a surge ordered by Obama in 2009, and
the US deadline to begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
begins next month. A decision on ending the surge is expected
However, the military wants to avoid a situation in
which large number of troops are pulled out during the
heaviest period of militant activity next year -- the warm
months -- just as it hopes to be focusing on violent eastern
provinces bordering Pakistan, The Wall Street Journal said.
The Pentagon is therefore asking the administration to
hold off ending the surge by the fall of next year, it said.
The plan would also allow Obama to offer a war-weary
electorate a substantial troop withdrawal around the same time
he is asking for another four years in office, it said.
Military officials say the November 2012 presidential
election schedule has nothing to do with their
recommendations, though they acknowledge that political
considerations could affect Obama`s decision. They say their
only consideration is to maximize the pressure on the Taliban.
Unnamed military and administration officials were
quoted as saying that it is unclear whether Obama will go
along with the recommendation, or order a faster or slower
withdrawal than the military seeks.
Obama has called for a significant withdrawal in July
but has not said publicly what that would entail or when he
expects the full 33,000 troop surge to end.
"That conversation will continue," White House press
secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.
The US military has about 100,000 troops in
Afghanistan, including the surge forces. The US plans to leave
only a "small fraction" of the total number after December
2014, when the Afghans are scheduled to take over full
security responsibility, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert
The daily quoting administration officials said Gates
and the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus,
started detailed discussions with Obama this week over how
many troops to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan next month.
Military leaders have been wary of publicly voicing
their drawdown recommendations for fear of antagonising White
House officials, some of whom have accused commanders of
trying to box in the president on earlier troop decisions, it
Gates, in his final month as defense secretary, made
clear his preference for a slow drawdown, a view shared by
many commanders in the field.
In private talks with lawmakers and other officials in
recent weeks, Gates and Petraeus said they favoured
maintaining as much combat power in Afghanistan as possible
through the 2012 fighting season, reflecting the need to hold
on to what military officials see as solid, but reversible,
gains in the south while intensifying operations in the east,
the daily said.
Taliban and other insurgents often pull back to
sanctuaries in Pakistan during the snowy winter months.
In recent weeks, officials said they anticipated an
initial withdrawal of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops next
month, followed by a drawdown of as many as 5,000 more troops
in the fall.
A senior US official who favours a slow drawdown said
Obama`s decision on when to complete the withdrawal of the
remaining surge troops was far more important than his
decision about next month`s initial drawdown.