“Can we look at the American people in the eye and say that we have reached a point in Afghanistan where the American homeland is safe for now and in the foreseeable future?” said Seth Jones, associate director of international security and defense policy center at RAND Corp. Jones argued that U.S. military forces should not pull out of Afghanistan next year.
President Barack Obama announced in his 2011 State of the Union speech that he wants U.S. troops to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces by 2014. In theory, U.S and NATO forces would officially end combat operations by December of that year.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Afghan counterpart in Brussels, stressing the need to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement because “there is still work to be done to address Afghanistan’s security challenges,” according to a Pentagon news release. But the details of what kind of presence the U.S. would have down the road are not yet clear.
Experts at the Foreign Policy Initiative Conference Tuesday in Washington agreed that there is an “unresolved security problem” in the region. They said that National Afghanistan Security Forces would not be ready next year to effectively counter threats presented by the Taliban and terrorist groups.
The conference, organized by the non-profit Foreign Policy Initiative, focused on the future of American leadership in the world.
“The tide of war is not receding, the tide of American desire to be involved in war is receding,” said Frederick Kagan, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s critical threats project. “But al Qaida has not decided that it’s going to stop fighting us.”
It’s a question of American honor and credibility in regions like Afghanistan, Kagan added, and the U.S. must keep its commitment to support allies, like the Afghan army, that will stand up and fight terrorist groups such as al Qaida.
Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said going forward the most important thing would be to help Afghanistan take greater responsibility for its own security.
“We have to provide them with tools so they can finish the job,” Tellis said, adding that fears of catastrophic economic consequences are overstated.
“Getting Afghanistan right does not require overinvestment on the part of the United States,” Tellis said.
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