By Carlo Muñoz - 11/11/13 01:54 PM EST
The United States should keep between 9,000 to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to lock in security gains by American and NATO forces in the country are maintained after the White House's planned troop withdrawal in 2014.
The American units be part of a NATO-led postwar force that could total upwards of 15,000 Western troops, Illinois Republican and Afghan war veteran Rep. Adam Kinzinger said.
Those "robust" training and counterterror missions will be vital in ensuring a peaceful transition from American-led operations in Afghanistan to local control, Kinzinger said.
His comments echo those of senior congressional lawmakers, who are also calling for a U.S. postwar force of roughly 10,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
"My hunch is it’s going to be below 10,000," Senate Armed Services Committee chief Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said earlier this month during a breakfast in Washington in September.
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said the eventual U.S. force in Afghanistan after 2014 "somewhere around 10,000" he said during an interview with CNN in October.
The Afghan Parliament is preparing to review a preliminary postwar plan reached between Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that same month.
"Everything that will be necessary to a [postwar] agreement is in the agreement," Kerry said shortly after the preliminary deal reached with Karzai's government was reached.
But that deal does not include immunity for U.S. forces in country after the Obama administration's 2014 deadline.
Lack of immunity for U.S. troops was a crucial factor in the failed attempt to set up a postwar security deal in Iraq, and it set the stage for the recent wave of sectarian violence against Iraqi forces and civilians in the country.
But Kerry predicted Afghanistan's leaders would ultimately accept a U.S. postwar deal that includes immunity from prosecution for American troops.
"I believe they understand that this agreement is in the interests of Afghanistan because it's an agreement that provides for international support, not just the United States," he said after returning from postwar talks in Afganistan last month.
Since President Obama’s pledge to pull American forces out of Afghanistan by the end of next year, the White House and Pentagon have swung between a small U.S. postwar force to advise Afghan forces and a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops.
“The administration has got to make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in a July statement on Obama’s Afghan strategy.
“I believe that President Obama should signal to the Afghans and our allies what the post-2014 U.S. troop presence will look like governed by a security agreement,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that same month.
Administration officials have pushed back against such criticism, saying the White House’s postwar plans for Afghanistan have been consistent since the President's announcement of the 2014 withdrawal deadline.