May 1, 2012

On Post-2014 US military presence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — David Isby @ 11:59 am


23 April 2012
Inside the Army
Vol. 24, No. 16

With U.S.-led combat operations in Afghanistan slated to ramp down next year, State and Defense department officials have begun hatching an end game to America’s massive military engagement in that country, projecting a footprint of 5,000 personnel on the ground after diplomats take over, according to officials and documents.

The plan for a State Department-led mission is reminiscent of developments last year in Iraq, where the American Embassy in Baghdad took the lead, managing approximately 15,000 personnel. Planning a similar transition in Afghanistan is markedly different, however, because fighting there continues to rage and, by leaders’ accounts, steep challenges remain before security objectives can be achieved.

State Department and DOD leaders created the Afghanistan Ad-hoc Executive Steering Group to prepare the internal U.S. government handover. The panel is co-chaired by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Logistics Management Catherine Ebert-Gray and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Program Support Gary Motsek. The group meets monthly. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 24, according to officials.

A State Department spokeswoman confirmed the government’s estimated footprint of individuals working for the United States in Afghanistan following the transition: “5,000 is a rough initial projection of the number of personnel, including U.S., third country nationals, and local nationals (including contractors) associated with Mission Afghanistan,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email to Inside the Army.

The figure first appeared in an internal Army summary of a March 27 meeting prepared for service leaders. The meeting included officials from the Defense and State departments, the Joint Staff, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the Army and the program management office for the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program.

The State Department plan is to divide the country into four zones — regional hubs would be in Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar — plus Kabul, according to the summary.

After the transition, diplomats would still depend on certain military capabilities, including medical services, “quick-reaction forces,” airfield services, personnel recovery and explosive ordnance disposal, according to the Army’s meeting summary.

“The main take-away for this session is that the developing [State Department] plan depends on DoS understanding the Department of Defense way ahead for operations in the country,” the summary states. Officials want to “minimize” dependence on LOGCAP support as they prepare contract support strategies, the document adds.

Defense officials could not comment on exact time lines associated with the planning efforts, saying President Obama’s announcement last year of a drawdown by the end of 2014 continues to serve as guidance.

Meanwhile, in Brussels last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed the way ahead in Afghanistan with coalition governments. The ministerial meeting was a precursor to the NATO summit in Chicago next month, where decisions about the international community’s end game in Afghanistan are expected to be made.

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on April 19, Panetta said the U.S. government’s goal for Afghanistan is to have “an enduring presence there that represents a continuing effort to provide support to the Afghans on counterterrorism, on training, advice and assist in other areas.”

As was the plan in Iraq, defense officials hope that indigenous army and police forces in Afghanistan can eventually provide for the country’s security. What complicates matters, however, is the ability for violent extremists to retreat across the porous border with Pakistan. — Sebastian Sprenger

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