Afghan forces will need help post-2014, Pentagon report finds

Obama administration officials have suggested that a “zero option” is on the table in Afghanistan over frustration with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who quickly scuttled peace talks with the Taliban earlier this year and suspended bilateral security negotiations.

But military officials and lawmakers have said that the “zero option” is not something that’s being considered as the administration weighs its path forward in Afghanistan after 2014.

"Anyone who reinforces this idea of December 2014 as being Y2K or a cliff that the Afghan people are going to fall off is actually being unhelpful," Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said last week.

The report says that after control of security is handed to the Afghans at the end of 2014, the Afghan army will still need assistance with more technologically complex military capabilities, including logistics, air support and artillery.

“ANSF components responsible for these more complex tasks, particularly air operations, will not be capable of fully independent operations by December 2014,” the report states.

The report said that the Afghan security forces have grown to roughly 96 percent of its planned size of 352,000, and are conducting almost all combat operations.

The Pentagon said that Taliban influence and territorial control decreased in 2012 and through the initial months of 2013.

The U.S. plans to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan in half to 34,000 by early 2014, as it prepared for combat troops to withdrawal at the end of 2014. President Obama has not said how many troops he’d like to keep in Afghanistan after 2014, where they would play an advisory role and conduct counterterrorism operations.

Tuesday’s Pentagon report is a twice-yearly Pentagon assessment of the war required by Congress.