Just back from Afghanistan, two top Senate Democrats are objecting to President Obama’s plans to dramatically scale back the originally planned size of the Afghan National Security Forces.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) in a letter to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on Friday argued that Afghan forces, including local police forces, are performing admirably enough to warrant continued full support from the White House. The Obama administration has endorsed a plan to reduce the cap on Afghan troop totals from 352,000 to 230,000.
“We are convinced that it will be necessary for the success of the mission…to reconsider the current plan,” the senators wrote.
Levin and Reed said the savings from reducing the U.S. presence should be enough to pay for the full contingent of ANSF forces. The senators also said they support “a small number” of troops for a post-2014 presence.
Levin has long focused on the American mission to train Afghans as the key to getting out of the war quickly and successfully. This was his first visit since last May and included trips south and east. The senators wrote, “In general, we were very impressed with the progress that has been made in the short time.” They praised the transition strategy overall, claiming that public deadlines for withdrawing American surge forces spurned Afghan leaders to take the lead on their own security “with real energy.” They also called the Afghan Local Police program “extraordinarily successful, highly feared by the Taliban.”
But the size of the ANSF remained their focus. Levin and Reed called on Obama to revisit that issue, when the president does make his announcement on post-2014 U.S. troop presence, which is expected later this year.