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US Never Planned to Pull Out Troops in Afghanistan by 2014, Says Top Commander

General John Allen said 'zero option' was never on the table; expect conflict well after 2014

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Marines at Afghan soldiers training session (Photo: Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt / Isafmedia via Flickr / Creative Commons License)

The U.S. has never been serious about a so-called "zero option" in Afghanistan, a plan that would take all American troops out of the country by a 2014 deadline, according to the recently retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.

Allen stated at a meeting at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday that reports of a "zero option" plan were untrue, that he was never asked to produce a report on the so-called "zero option", and that he expects the U.S. and its allies to remain in Afghanistan for a long time, the Guardian reports.

"Sometimes this comes as a surprise when I say this: that on January 1, 2015, there's still going to be fighting in Afghanistan," Allen said.

"Speculation on the size of the force ranges from about 6,000 through to 20,000," the Guardian reports. "Allen offered Obama various options about force size before retiring last month. He ruled out a full pullout, an option the White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes had said in January was on the table."

"I was never asked to conduct any analysis with respect to the zero option," stated Allen.

Simultaneously, Secretary of State John Kerry conducted a surprise visit to Afghanistan and Iraq this week in an attempt to bolster U.S. sway in the region. As Juan Cole writes today:

Secretary of State John Kerry just made trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration’s two trophy states, in an attempt to shore up rapidly declining American influence in the two.

In Afghanistan, the mood is turning against a US troop presence after 2014. In the last couple of weeks, President Hamid Karzai successfully insisted that US special forces and their Afghan auxiliaries cease operating in Wardak Province just west of the capital. The US military resisted, on the grounds that Wardak is a Taliban hot spot and, well, close to the capital. But in the end they had to give in to Karzai’s demand. [...]

Karzai will bargain for the best deal for his government in Afghanistan.

Cole adds, "Bush’s moment in the sun as conqueror of poor weak countries has long since passed. But the damage he did lives on."


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