Speaking at an event held at the Brookings Institution’s Falk Auditorium in Washington, D.C., on March 26, Gen. John Allen, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said that the United States would retain a troop presence in Afghanistan sufficiently large to support Afghan forces after the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of 2014.
General Allen’s talk was spun differently in several reports, with ABC News summarizing Allen’s optimistic statement: “Afghan security forces have proven themselves to be more capable than anyone expected, and will be ready to take over securing the country [in] 2014.”
“They turned out to be better than we thought. They turned out to be better than they thought,” said Allen.
ABC reported that Allen attributed the progress made by Afghan security forces to “developmental strategies” as much as “building military capacity.” Allen specifically cited the emphasis on developing literacy within the Afghan forces. The report noted:
Allen said the literacy program was championed by international forces commanders — Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus and then himself — and that he expected Gen. Joseph Dunford to continue the program because of its success. Allen said more than half the Afghan troops now have the capacity to read and write at a first grade level.
ABC’s report inadvertently highlighted a curious aspect of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, since Generals Allen, McCrystal, and Petraeus — as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (whose career spanned the Bush and Obama administrations), U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham, and previous Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Karl Eikenberry — are all members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a group that has long promoted the interventionist U.S. foreign policy that has led to multiple overseas military operations and full-fledged wars.
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Photo of U.S. troops in Jalalabad, Afghanistan: AP Images