Just as the defence budget is projected to shrink, and the U.S. inches toward a 2014 withdrawal goal, Afghan officials are saying they want to be sure American cash will keep on flowing.Concerned the flood of money will be slashed based on a deadline or a budget, Afghan officials seem either unaware or unconcerned that those are the two factors shaping U.S. policy and opinion on the Afghan War.
The U.S. will be training 325,000 Afghan soldiers to take over when it departs in a couple years and it’s costing tax payers more than $4 billion this year alone.
The NY Times reports combined allied funding towards Afghan security forces reaches $7 billion annually.
American and NATO officials are discussing how to share the burden, with a tentative plan for the U.S. to contribute $2.3 billion to $2.7 billion annually, and the Afghan government contributing $500 million along with donations from allies “to cover the rest.”
But Viola Beinger at Bloomberg reports Afghanistan’s defence and interior ministers say they’ve urged defence Secretary Leon Panetta to prioritise maintaining a high level of security in Afghanistan over the aim of cutting costs.
This means they’re appealing to the U.S. to let the security situation determine if and when funding decreases. This kind of open-ended support would be based on conditions on the ground, rather than a specified date.
Austin Wright at Politico says this approach, which is supported by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, would be a “hard sell to a war-weary American public.”
General John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testified last month at a series of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings about the situation in Afghanistan. He is evaluating the progress of Afghan security and will present recommendations about U.S. military force levels to President Obama later this year.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb asked Gen. Allen to say whether he’d consider accelerating the pace of the U.S. military withdrawal, since the commander acknowledged Afghan troops were better than he thought they’d be.
Senator Webb suggested an early withdrawal would put the U.S. in good light: “You could actually see that as a signal of success, rather than of weakness.”
Thom Shanker at the NY Times reported at the time that Gen. Allen stressed to senators “he would not even begin his formal assessments about force levels until he could review the security situation at the conclusion of the summer fighting season.”However, the news this week is Afghan forces will be cut after taking a leading role in the next couple years.
Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak acknowledged that his government and NATO have agreed in principle to decreasing local service members to 230,000 as the international community cuts back on funding.
But Wardak told reporters yesterday in Washington after talks with Secretary Panetta that any decision is “subject to revision.”
“The security environment by itself will either agree with the figures or not.”
The AFP previously reported that Wardak warned if figures were not based on “realities on the ground” that the war effort could become disastrous, “putting at risk all that we have accomplished together with so much sacrifice in blood and treasure.”
The U.S. along with coalition partners are meeting next month for a key NATO summit in Chicago, where their future support for Afghan security will be determined.
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