Martin Dempsey worries about effects of Afghanistan withdrawal talk
Bagram Air Field: America`s top military officer said on Wednesday that the impasse over a security agreement between the US and Afghanistan is encouraging the enemy to take bold actions and could lead some Afghan forces to cooperate with the Taliban to "hedge their bets."
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with his commanders in Afghanistan to assess conditions and reassure them that they should focus on the considerable work they have to do this year and not worry about next year.
Dempsey told The Associated Press in an interview that President Barack Obama`s order yesterday to begin actively planning for a total withdrawal was making Afghan military leaders anxious and eating away at their troops` confidence.
Frustrated with Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Obama ordered the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year.
But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan`s next president, to be elected this spring, may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the US from having to take that step.
The administration would like to leave up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after combat operations end on Dec. 31 to continue training Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism missions.
But without the agreement that would give international forces legal standing to stay in Afghanistan, Obama has threatened to pull all troops out, leaving the work to Afghan forces.
Obama spoke yesterday with Karzai, the first direct conversation between the two presidents since last June. Karzai has refused to sign the pact.
The impasse is having an effect, Dempsey said.
"It is having an effect on the enemy and in some ways I think encourages them, and intelligence supports that," Dempsey told reporters. And, he said, the uncertainty of a continued US presence in Afghanistan may encourage Afghan security forces in some parts of the country to "hedge their bets."