US House chairman for more troops in Afghanistan



Washington: United States military leaders and the American ambassador favour a residual force of 13,600 in Afghanistan after combat troops leave at the end of 2014, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said on Thursday as President Barack Obama gets ready to decide on the matter.

A day after wrapping up his third trip to Afghanistan, Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, a Republican, said a US force of 13,600 combined with coalition troops of some 6,000 would be "the one that has the least risk going forward".

McKeon said he met Marine General Joseph Dunford, the top commander in Afghanistan, during the trip and he favours a residual force of that size as does Ambassador James Cunningham.

"I think we dropped the ball on Iraq," McKeon said in an interview with a small group of reporters. "I don't want to see that happen in Afghanistan."

Obama is expected to announce in the coming weeks the size of the US force after combat troops leave by December 31, 2014, with political pressure from a war-weary nation for the US to end its involvement in Afghanistan.

More than 2,000 Americans have died since 2001, more than 18,000 have been wounded and billions of dollars have been spent.

The 13,600 plus the additional 6,000 is far more than what US and NATO leaders discussed last month at a NATO meeting in Brussels. Officials had said then that they may keep a total force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

PTI