US reassesses Afghan troop levels

Getty Images

The Pentagon is reassessing the number of U.S. troops it will leave in Afghanistan at the end of the year, based on the needs of local forces, the nation's top military officer said Monday.

The current plan is to draw down to 5,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan before 2017. But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Afghan forces needed more help than anticipated during their first year in charge of their own security last year.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Many of the assumptions we made in 2013 didn't obtain," Gen. Joseph Dunford said at a Pentagon briefing.

"When we looked at this in 2013, we assumed a certain progression, a ministerial capacity, core-level capabilities, the intelligence enterprise, special operations and aviation," he said of the Afghan forces.

Dunford said their performance is not surprising given the difficulty and the political transition the country faced in the last two years.

"The aviation capability is not developing as fast as we would've wanted it to," he said. "And frankly, many of the Afghan forces were tied up, focused on supporting two major elections and a difficult political transition."

Dunford said it was "premature" to discuss numbers of troops or capabilities that would be needed, but that recommendations on troop levels would be benchmarked on lessons learned in 2015, as well as the security environment.

"I would say that this summer probably, we have some lessons learned," he said.

"One is, I mean, the Afghan forces at the end of the day, were resilient, but they still do have those capability gaps that have been identified and we are certainly looking at that right now and I will be prepared to make recommendations to the secretary as to how we can incorporate the lessons learned from 2015 into more effective operations in 2016," he said.