It isn’t necessary to have a decision on an exact number of troops in post-2014 Afghanistan before securing a bilateral security agreement, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee today.
During a hearing on the president’s proposed fiscal year 2014 defense budget, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the question of whether the Afghanistan mission will succeed and endure rests on the confidence of the Afghan security forces and of the people of Afghanistan, not on a specific figure for the enduring presence.
A range of 8,000 to 12,000 total personnel already is established in NATO agreements, he said. Those personnel are expected to train, advise and assist Afghan forces, Dempsey told the House panel.
“I find that to be a reasonable target toward which to aim,” he added.
The effort to secure a bilateral support agreement can move forward based on those numbers, he said, “because that should inform the number of bases we might need to retain and what authorities ... we might need.”
Nor is it tactically necessary to have an exact number, Dempsey noted, because the agreed-upon range supplies enough information to allow the department to define the logistical requirements to retrograde from the current troop level of 34,000 down to “something between 8,000 to 12,000.”