Likely Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Thursday she is open to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan if the country requests it.
“I would,” she said when asked about extending the timeline at a Council Foreign Relations event. “It depends on conditions, on the ground, and what is being asked for.”
President Barack Obama, under whom Clinton served as Secretary of State, has rolled out a timeline that cuts the number of troops in Afghanistan from 32,000 to 9,800 by the end of 2014, and half that by 2015. By the end of 2016, the U.S. would drawn down to a “normal embassy presence.” Some liberal Democrats have balked at any continuing presence in the country.
But Clinton appears willing to extend the timeline even further and noted that, despite the resistance of Afghanistan’s current president, both of the candidates running to replace him have agreed to some U.S. troop presence past 2014.
“Both the two remaining presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdulla Abdulla, said that they will sign [a bilateral security agreement]. So there will be legal support for America staying in Afghanistan,” she said at the Thursday event.
“I believe that if one of those two men, elected as president of Afghanistan, … [came] with a well-thought-through plan about what was needed — because it is not only the United States which has agreed to continue to support, it is also NATO that has agreed to a continuing presence — I believe that would be very seriously considered.”
Clinton stressed, however, that Afghanistan will need to “step up” its own security commitment.
“We’re willing to help you, we’re willing to continue making the sacrifices necessary, but you have to step up to it. And the Afghan security forces have been well trained and they’re getting better all the time,” she said.
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