Enduring Presence

The Air Force will have a mission in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat ground forces in 2014, but the mission specifics have yet to be decided, said a senior US defense official on Aug. 8. Afghanistan has agreed to an “enduring mission” for the Air Force there after 2014, but “all the NATO partners may play some role,” said this official in a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C. The division of labor is still in negotiation and it’s still too early to say who will do what, said the official. The Air Force is expected to help the fledgling Afghan air force with training, maturing its organization, and acquisition of hardware, said the official. Presumably, the Air Force will also provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support and close air support to the Afghan armed forces, since the Afghan air force will be unable to deliver that on its own for some time, said the official. The Pentagon is trying to wean itself off overseas contingency operations funding—which is separate from its base budget—to cover the costs of this future support, noted the official. (See also Afghanistan Declared Major US Non-NATO Ally and NATO Affirms Post-2014 Commitment to Afghanistan.)