Gen. Allen's postwar plan won't include troop drawdowns, says DOD

The plan, drafted by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is primarily focused on what the American military footprint will look like after the White House-mandated 2014 withdrawal of all combat forces from the country, DOD press secretary George Little said during Wednesday's briefing.

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Allen's plan has been submitted to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is reviewing the strategy before passing on the four-star general's postwar recommendations to the White House, Little said. 

The Obama administration has the final say on the Allen plan, which could come as soon as next week, coinciding with a planned visit to Washington by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

When asked why Allen's postwar blueprint did not include withdrawal plans, Little replied: "We are not there yet." 

The last of the 30,000 American soldiers sent to Afghanistan as part of the White House's 2009 troop surge were pulled out of the country this summer. 

Many inside Washington assumed Allen's pending withdrawal plan would outline how the White House plans to redeploy the remaining 68,000 U.S. soldiers within the next year and a half.

However, Allen's involvement in a wide-ranging sex scandal that forced former four-star general David Petraeus from the top spot at CIA last year may have promoted DOD to limit his involvement in postwar planning. 

Allen, who is set to leave his post as the top U.S. officer in Afghanistan this year, is currently under investigation by DOD's Inspector General's office for his alleged role in the Petraeus affair. 

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was confirmed by the Senate last year, will replace Allen as the head of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Kabul. 

On Wednesday, Little denied claims that the decision to omit any troop withdrawal details in Allen's plan was due to his reported ties to the Petraeus incident. 

Further, Little dismissed any notion that DOD was forcing Allen out as ISAF commander ahead of schedule. 

"We were always planning to change commanders in Afghanistan" by early 2013, said Little, who noted Washington needed to finalize its post-2014 footprint before any decisions can be made on withdrawal timelines. 

"The [withdrawal] numbers, in and of themselves, does not provide the full story," regarding the eventual American withdrawal, Little added. 

"A range of issues beyond specific [drawdown] numbers" still need to be hashed out between Washington and Kabul before the White House can begin to broach the question of when U.S. soldiers will begin to come home from Afghanistan, he added. 

To that end, American and Afghan forces have already begun the final stage of transitioning security operations from U.S. and NATO control to Afghan commanders, Panetta said last Monday. 

So far, 23 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are in the midst of the transition process agreed to by U.S., European and Afghan leaders during NATO's annual summit in last May. An additional 12 provinces, located in the northern and eastern pars of the country, have now been added to that list, Panetta said at the time. 

Debate among defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill over how to pull out remaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan has intensified in recent months. 

GOP lawmakers like Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) have called upon the White House to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through 2013. 

They argue a rapid troop withdrawal would put the country on a path to increased violence, similar to the rampant sectarian bloodshed engulfing Iraq a year after U.S. troops fully withdrew from that country. 

Others, such as Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), have dismissed such comparisons, noting the parallels being drawn between Iraq and Afghanistan are ones that are simply not there. 

The comparisons between Iraq and Afghanistan are “interesting,” but fail to take into account the stark differences between the countries and the conflicts, he told The Hill last December. 

"I think you have to be careful about [comparing] apples and oranges," Reed said at the time.