Pentagon: School attack won't slow US drawdown

The Pentagon says a Pakistani Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed at least 126 won't change U.S. plans to draw down troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

"As terrible as it is, its not going to change our strategy," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby at a press briefing Tuesday. 


The attack, which took the lives of dozens of children, comes as the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan to 10,800 by the end of December and ends its combat mission there. The remaining forces would transition to advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism missions. 

U.S. forces would be reduced further to roughly half of that number by the end of 2015 and down to an embassy presence of about a 1,000 by the end of 2016, when President Obama leaves office. 

Critics in Congress say the president should rethink that timeline, given Iraq's deterioration after U.S. troops precipitously pulled out of the country in 2011, when both sides failed to sign a bilateral security agreement. 

The Taliban has stepped up high-profile attacks across Afghanistan in recent weeks. Kirby said the increased violence was expected as U.S. forces draw down. 

"Nothing has changed of the fact that the combat mission will end at the end of the month," he said. 

Kirby cautioned against drawing a connection between the attack by Pakistani Taliban and stepped up attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

"I'd be careful drawing a direct correlation and a line between the two," he said, noting that they were different entities.