Pentagon says Afghanistan war plans still undecided

The Pentagon, reacting to news that the White House wants to keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 after combat formally ends, said no decisions have been made on either the drawdown to come or the force laydown to occur beyond the war’s end.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not made formal recommendations to the White House on either the pace of the drawdown until 2014 or the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters in his Monday morning on-the-record gaggle with reporters in his office.

“I’m not aware of a formal set of recommendations that has made its way from Gen. Allen to Secretary Panetta” on a post-2014 plan, Little said.

There was some confusion as to what Allen has recommended to Panetta at this point. Two weeks ago, while traveling through Australia, Panetta said he had received options for the Afghanistan war from Allen. Since then, Panetta ordered a DOD inspector general investigation into what Pentagon officials have said are up to 30,000 pages of emails that include inappropriately “flirtatious” exchanges between Allen and Jill Kelley, the civilian hostess for military events at Tampa’s Central Command, uncovered by the FBI investigation into Gen. David Petraeus’ admitted affair.

Little said Panetta will talk with Allen next on Tuesday, via teleconference, but that meeting has no agenda.

“We are considering options internally, obviously, on what a post-2014 presence might look like and we will consult, naturally, with the State Department and the White House once we have matured those recommendations,” Little said. The spokesman refused to detail internal discussions in the Defense Department.

Allen has only weeks or months left in his job. The Senate soon is expected to easily confirm Gen. Joseph Dunford, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, to succeed Allen. Dunford said in his confirmation hearing before the Thanksgiving break that he has not been a part of Allen’s recommendation process, a revelation that did not sit well with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Pentagon officials said on Monday that Dunford was being kept informed appropriately.

“To say he’s in the dark would be an exaggeration,” said Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a DOD spokesman.

“He gets briefed, so he’s aware of the process that’s going on,” Little added, “but he’s not part of the analytic team that is going through these recommendations, and that would be inappropriate given the fact that we have an ISAF commander and until confirmed by the Senate he’ll be the assistant commandant.”