Afghanistan will need a U.S. and NATO military presence after 2014 to guarantee the country’s secure enough to keep receiving development aid promised by international donors, the top American military officer said.
“After 2014 Afghanistan can live without a ubiquitous presence of U.S. military forces in their country,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said tonight at an event in Washington organized by the Wall Street Journal. “They can’t live without any.”
The number of U.S. and alliance troops that remain in Afghanistan after next year should be determined by whatever it takes to “guarantee that the money we’ve all committed to Afghanistan will continue to flow,” he said. “If security deteriorates to a point” where the $6 billion in annual aid promised to Afghanistan “dries up, then they can’t survive.”
The long-term presence of foreign troops in the South Asian nation after 2014 is at the heart of a bilateral accord between the U.S. and Afghanistan that’s in the final stages of negotiations. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for a loya jirga, a national consultative assembly of tribal elders, to meet this month to consider and approve a draft agreement that was reached in discussions last month led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Agreement on a limited U.S. presence to train Afghan forces and fight terrorism after next year has foundered in part over Afghanistan’s demand that the U.S. commit to defending the nation against external threats, a reference to insurgents backed by neighboring Pakistan. Most U.S. and NATO combat troops are set to depart Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has said that about 8,000 to 12,000 troops may remain in Afghanistan to train and advise the Afghan military and police forces. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has said that the number would not include forces needed to carry out counterterrorism missions and to protect U.S. diplomats.