The second in command of Pakistan’s International Security and Assistance Force, General James Bucknall, gave his first interview since accepting command and asked for patience from U.S. officials, and to not be left behind in 2014.That is the year the Obama administration will begin withdrawing American troops from the region and transitioning control to Afghanistan.
In a report by the Guardian, Bucknall said, “now is not the time to blink” and that the withdrawal date will only further Taliban attacks.
The concern is particualrly pointed now, with the reduction of NATO troops later this year, and the death of Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. may be about to seriously re-direct its $100 billion a year Afghanistan campaign.
A diplomatic source who asked not to be named said:
Afghanistan has been the centre of the world for the past 10 years. It isn’t anymore and the purse strings from donors will soon tighten. The international military drawdown will begin. There will then be a limited period where there is some money available for non-military efforts.
After this, many Afghans fear they will then be abandoned again. The international community will say ‘job done’ and it will be case of presenting it as “Afghan-good enough.”
Bucknall stressed that long term planning remains the key to short term success. It’s a point international officials understand, but one they may be limited from acting upon by the voters at home.