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U.S. commanders in Afghanistan can hardly be pleased by the decision.Last night President Obama announced his decision to withdraw 10,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan this year and the remainder of the surge troops—more than 20,000—by the end of next summer, even though senior American military planners in Kabul had hoped to have a heavier U.S. footprint on the ground throughout all of next year.
The operative plan was that next summer, as security improved further in Kandahar and Helmand provinces (the former Taliban heartland), and as Afghan forces took a more active and aggressive role in defence of that area, U.S. commanders would shift many of the surge forces to the rugged and mountainous east along the Pakistani border.
That’s the part of Afghanistan where senior U.S. planners expected “we are going to fight last and longest,” as Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the outgoing commander of military operations in Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast.
But now, with the surge troops pulling out by then, no one can say how secure the south will be by next summer—or whether U.S. commanders will have the forces in place for one last push against the Haqqani Network, which poses a serious threat not only to the eastern provinces but also to Kabul itself.
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