Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis (shown), commander of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) — the U.S. military command responsible for operations in 20 countries in the Middle East — has recommended that 13,600 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan after the White House-mandated 2014 withdrawal date for American and NATO troops. Mattis presented his recommendation in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5 and the House Armed Services Committee on March 6.
Bloomberg News cited statistics from Mattis that NATO would probably provide a force of about 50 percent of the U.S. strength, bringing the number of troops remaining in Afghanistan to more than 20,000. That figure is considerably more than the 8,000 to 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed with his European NATO counterparts in Brussels last month. There are currently about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“Our mission is succeeding,” Mattis’ statement to the Senate Committee was quoted as saying in a report by the Armed Forces Press service. “The Afghan campaign is on track. It is, obviously, a combination of progress and violence, but I would say when it comes down to the [Afghan] security forces, they are proving themselves capable.”
“Obviously, when we were looking at the drawdown numbers, there was a certain amount of forecasting that the Afghan forces would be capable,” the general added.
Mattis continued his remarks before the House Committee the next day, expressing concern that the United States might fail to show its “commitment” to the Middle East region. “The drawdown of our forces can be misinterpreted as a lack of attention, a lack of commitment to the region,” he said. “Obviously that's a misinterpretation of what we're doing. Those forces were sent there for missions that are going away.”
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