Slow the Withdrawal and Make it Stick

The Pentagon is considering slowing the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan to ensure Afghan forces are prepared to hold on to allied gains, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “That could mean taking another look at the timing and sequencing of base closures, to ensure we have the right array of coalition capabilities to support our Afghan partners,” said Carter following a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Feb. 21. Carter said it is essential to keep the forces needed to “ensure that hard-won progress lasts” and that residual American advisors and diplomats are adequately protected. “President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of US troops,” he added. Carter’s current fact-finding trip through Southwest Asia is his first overseas jaunt since taking the Defense Department’s reins on Feb. 17. (Carter-Ghani transcript) (See also Increased 2015 Troop Presence in Afghanistan Announced.)