The United States hits the halfway mark of President Obama’s NATO approved timetable to end the war in Afghanistan by 2014. NATO leaders recently signed off on President Obama’s plan in May 2012. The military strategy plans to terminate all US combat operations by 2013 in order to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces, and to pull out US military forces by the end 2014.
In 2011 President Obama ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan and 23,000 to be pulled by date September 30, 2012. Consequently 68,000 US troops and 40,000 NATO forces will stay behind in Afghanistan.
General John Allen told the Associated Press in an interview that the “drawdown is halfway there, and will accelerate in the coming months as it’s planned to be completed in September.”
As the plan’s implementation date approaches, pressure is felt by United States’ military forces to ensure the withdrawal is done effectively considering the amount of time, money, and US military boots put on the ground to carry out the long-waged war against Al-Qaeda.“The stakes are very high. The fact that we were attacked on the 11th of September is a direct line relationship between what happened on that day and what could happen again if we don’t get this right,” Allen said in his Associated Press interview. “I think an awful lot has gone in during the last several years into getting this right. It’s not going to end at the end of 2014.”
“The preponderance still remains to go out,” Allen said. “August will be the heaviest month. A lot is coming out now and a great deal will come out in August and early September. We’ll be done probably around mid-September or so.”
Although the plan calls for the US to complete the military withdrawal by 2014, the United States financial presence will be necessary to guarantee the stability of Afghan security forces and government.
According to an IVN article, which emphasized the financial deficits Afghanistan faces, the United States will be forced to continue supporting the country after US troops are withdrawn.
“The World Bank announced earlier this week an estimate of expected costs after foreign troops move out of the occupied country. Reuters broke the story after the World Bank announced its gloomy forecast as it predicts Afghanistan will face a $6-7 billion deficit in 2014. The money is needed in aid to facilitate the growth of the Afghan economy. This figure is on top of the expected $4.1 billion security forces bill important for keeping the peace after soldiers move out. Afghanistan currently has a $17.1 billion dollar budget Ninety percent comes from foreign investment, while only 10% is generated by the Afghan economy. Not only would foreign institutions need to pay for the $7 billion dollar budget gap, but continue supplying $15.3 billion in aid to keep the Afghan budget in the black.”
Gen. Allen insinuated that a vast amount of work and planning remains in order to make the withdrawal deadline.
"We haven't even recruited the whole Afghan national security force. That's not going to happen for another couple months, but by Oct. 1, we hope to be at 352,000," Allen said. "We don't finish completely fielding the Afghan forces until December 2013. So just at that level alone there is significant work remaining to be done."
With some sort of end in sight, Americans can only hope our troops come home according to plan. However, pulling troops out of Afghanistan is only one step in severing US military ties with central Asia. The United States will continue its endeavors and involvement via financial support for some time as well as oversee the development of Afghanistan’s government. As for now, it is unknown when the US defense budget will be clear of Afghanistan expenditures.