As Karzai Arrives for Talks, a Small Post-2014 U.S. Footprint Predicted

Jan. 9, 2013 - 01:19PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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As Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai huddles with U.S. officials, one former senior American diplomat predicts President Barack Obama will opt for a “low-cost, high-risk” post-2014 Afghanistan strategy.

Karzai is slated to meet Jan. 10 with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, then Obama on Friday. Topic A is expected to be the size of the U.S. and NATO force remaining in Afghanistan beyond Obama’s goal of removing most U.S. and Western troops by December 2014.

Karzai on Jan. 9 is scheduled to meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Tim Kaine, D-Va. Casey is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has sway over billions of dollars in aid Washington sends to Kabul annually.

Ahead of Karzai’s visit to Washington, the Obama administration revealed some options being discussed internally for the post-2014 planning.

The administration has several options for its military plans for Afghanistan beyond 2014: a force of more than 4,000 U.S. troops or one reportedly favored by the White House as small as 2,500.

James Dobbins, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union and special U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan, said Jan. 9 he prefers a “high-cost, low-risk” force presence. Such a footprint would come down on the high end of the ranges being discussed inside the White House.

But that’s mainly because Dobbins has an admitted “link” to Afghanistan rooted in his time there and career as a diplomat. So, too, do many military officials, who are still pushing for more time to finish the job started in Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

But “most Americans don’t have that link,” Dobbins said. “I think they’ll probably choose high-risk, low-cost,” he said of the Obama administration.

Administration officials told reporters on a Jan. 8 conference call that Washington may leave no forces in Afghanistan. Dobbins called that public statement “a message to Karzai that he has less leverage than he thinks.”

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