WASHINGTON: Favouring a “small but enduring presence” in Afghanistan, a top US Senator on Wednesday said he visualised about 10,000 American troops to stay there post 2014.
“My hunch is it (US troop number post 2014) is going to be below 10,000,” Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a breakfast meeting with the Defense Writers Group.
“The number should be a small with very discrete kind of purposes,” Levin said in response to a question when asked about the troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014. At the same time, the Senator insisted that he was in favour of a long-term partnership with Afghanistan, which he said would be reflected in the Bilateral Security Agreement, currently being negotiated between the two countries.
“I believe there should be a small number of troops in Afghanistan perhaps for anti-terrorism purposes,” he said as he welcomed the recent move of Pakistan towards the peace process. “In terms of negotiations and peace talks with the Taliban, I gather Pakistan being more co-operative in that regard,” he said.
Levin praised the decision of Pakistan to release Mullah Baradar, the Taliban second-in-command after supreme leader Mullah Omar, as was being demanded by the Afghan government for quite some time now. “I think that could help as well. I think there is greater progress sin that direction,” he said.
The decision of Islamabad to release Baradar has also been applauded by the Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins. This would further accelerate the Afghan reconciliation process, he told a Washington audience.