(WASHINGTON) — The commander of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan strongly suggested Thursday that there won’t be any immediate withdrawal of American soldiers from the country after troop levels shrink to 68,000 by the end of this summer.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. John Allen said, “My opinion is that we will need significant combat power in 2013.”
The strategy in Afghanistan remains handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces by sometime in 2014. Lately, there has been a call to accelerate the drawdown due to a number of incidents that have strained relations between Washington and Kabul, including the slaying of 17 Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. Army sergeant.
Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the panel, has already been critical of the present plan to remove 23,000 boots from the ground by the summer, telling Allen that the mission in Afghanistan would be compromised if more soldiers come home soon afterwards.
Allen seemed to concur that he’d wanted to keep a sizeable force in the country for the time being but he won’t have his full recommendations to President Obama or his successor until after the November elections.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN