Four senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have written to President Obama, urging him to reject “premature and militarily unjustified reductions” proposed to the end-strength of the Afghan National Security Forces.
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee’s chairman, John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking Republican, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) responded to reports that the United States and its NATO allies are considering reductions of roughly one-third in troop levels for Afghanistan’s army and police after the planned handover of security responsibility to the Afghans in 2014.
“The United States needs to ensure that decisions on the future size of and funding for the ANSF will be based on security conditions in Afghanistan at that time, and not set spending levels that could not only jeopardize the progress of the past decade or weaken the security of Afghanistan when they take effect down the road but could also send the wrong message in the interim,” the senators wrote.
They noted that the U.S. withdrawal strategy depends on increasing numbers of Afghan security capable of taking on the monumental task.
The senators were “surprised and troubled,” they wrote, by a NATO proposal to decrease Afghan National Security Forces strength from 352,000 this year to 230,000 after 2014, a consideration driven by budgetary concerns rather than military commanders.
“For the foreseeable future, the ANSF will need to be able to contend with a resilient insurgency that enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan,” they wrote. “We believe the end-strength of our Afghan partners needed to maintain security should be based on a realistic assessment of the conditions they will be facing and it is too early to decide that conditions two to three years from now will allow a one-third reduction.”