US on course for a 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Pentagon Monday ruled out any shift in its Afghan strategy in the rundown to its planned drawdown of troops by 2014.

Updated: Dec 17, 2012, 23:44 PM IST

Washington: The Pentagon Monday ruled out any shift in its Afghan strategy in the rundown to its planned drawdown of troops by 2014, noting that it is committed to the Lisbon process and expressed its satisfaction to the ongoing security transition in the war torn country.
"We are not changing out strategy at all. The strategy remains in effect. We believe transition is proceeding as we expected and we will withdraw by 2014 and would have enduring presence beyond," Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little, told reporters during an off-camera news conference.
However, there will be decisions made along the way to be sure that there would be drawdown between now and 2014 and the number of personnel the US would have beyond 2014 in Afghanistan, he noted.

"At some point we will see the Afghans take full lead in the combat operations. We will remain in the combat support role into the end of 2014. There is no fixed date for that milestone in 2014 yet. The precise date is yet to be decided," he said.

Responding to a question, Little said as of now he does not have any time line to announce for the drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan.

The process in this regard is still going on.

"The (Defence) Secretary had very good set of discussions with the military commanders in Afghanistan last week and one of the main purpose of visiting the troops was to get a sense from them what the conditions on the ground are. As to his recommendations to the White House, ultimately it is President`s decision and I do not have specific time line to lay out to you today," he said.

Little "deeply regretted" the loss of life in the Taliban attack today.

"We have strong confidence in ISAF capabilities and ANSF to provide security in Afghanistan. There are challenges to be sure. This is a war. We continue to see progress on the security front.

"We know insurgents from time to time are going to launch attacks and that is unfortunate, but that is something we have to expect in midst of conflict like this," he said.

"The bottom line though is that there are effort to help improve the capabilities of ANSF is working. The Taliban and other insurgent groups are not being able to reclaim territory that they want they once had, so it is no surprise that they are resorting to this kind of tactics," Little said.