House defense bill demands details on Afghan postwar plans

The House Armed Services Committee approved the draft version of the budget bill early Thursday morning, authorizing $638 billion in defense spending. The budget authorization package passed the committee by a vote of 59 to 2, after nearly 16 hours or deliberation.

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That report by the White House and Department of Defense must also outline details "about the draw down of U.S. forces, closure of coalition bases, and tasks that are being transitioned to other [government] agencies," according to language in the House version of the Pentagon's fiscal 2014 defense spending bill, as well as "conditions that Pakistan and other Afghan neighbors may be putting on the withdrawal of US equipment through their territory."

Roughly 66,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, with half of those forces scheduled to withdraw from the country this spring.

The final 32,000 American forces remaining in the country will start coming home following the country's presidential election in April 2014 — officially ending America's combat role.

A force ranging between 8,000-12,000 troops has been suggested to remain in a non-combat role after 2014. 

The Obama administration, however, has yet to publicly announce a postwar troop number despite increasing calls from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill to issue a final force projection. 

Retired Gen. John Allen, one of the president’s former commanders, said it’s high time for an announcement.

“What is missing right now are the specifics,” Allen said during a speech in Washington earlier this month.

“Giving [the Afghans] the clarity of what that enduring presence looks like will give them the confidence that they need," he added. 

Gen. Joseph Dunford, who succeeded Allen as the top U.S. Afghan commander, has backed a troop level of 13,600 under a plan drafted by former Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis. 

That American presence would be backed up by a 6,000- to 7,000-troop NATO force, according to the Mattis plan. 

Congressional Republicans, who are also pushing for a troop figure from Obama, claim Dunford and others are being pressured by the White House to accept a smaller U.S. troop presence in the country. 

While the White House has remained mum on what the total U.S. force will be in Afghanistan after 2014, top military leaders have already begun coordinating that postwar plan with NATO. 

The United States, Germany and Italy committed to serve as “lead nations” for the training mission, Hagel said Wednesday after the conclusion of a NATO meeting in Brussels.

The U.S. military will be the largest contributor, taking the lead in the more volatile eastern and southern regions. Germany and Italy will serve as lead nations in the west and north.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the new mission will be primarily focused on training and will be significantly smaller than the force currently in Afghanistan.

“We're transitioning, not leaving,” Hagel added during the Wednesday press conference.