The commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan is reviewing plans for troop levels after 2016, but did not specify Tuesday what size of force will be necessary.
Gen. John Campbell outlined the challenges facing coalition and Afghan forces and warned the situation could deteriorate should the U.S. not extend its commitment to the country.
“Afghanistan is at an inflection point,” he said to the House Armed Services Committee. “I believe if we do not make deliberate, measured adjustments, 2016 is at risk of being no better, and possibly worse, than 2015.
When asked for specifics on what further commitment the United States should make, Campbell demurred.
“It’s not as simple as I need X amount of people,” he said. “You can have the force, but if you don’t have the authorities, it doesn’t make a difference. You can have the authorities, but if you don’t have the resources to execute the authorities, it doesn’t make a difference.”
The mission in Afghanistan now is twofold: train, advice and assist Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.
Of the 407 district centers in Afghanistan, Campbell said, eight are under insurgent control, 18 are under insurgent influence and up to 94 district centers are “at risk.”
“These figures make two clear points,” Campbell said. “One, that approximately 70 percent of the inhabited parts of Afghanistan are either under government influence or government control, and two, the importance of prioritizing Afghan resources to ensure key district centers do not fall into insurgent influence or control.”
Right now, NATO is crafting a five-year plan for involvement in Afghanistan, which Campbell said he believes the United States should also do.
The Afghan government wants that commitment, Campbell added.
“Many of the Afghan security forces want large numbers,” he said. “They want more resources. They understand they have gaps and seams they need to continue to work on, and they see NATO and especially the United States as the only one that can really help them get to the level they need.”
When pressed on how long an economic commitment the United States should make, Campbell said he doesn’t foresee Afghanistan being able to fully defend itself until 2024.