(CNSNews.com) - Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the Obama administration is planning to maintain “joint” U.S.-Afghan military bases in Afghanistan after 2014 and it plans to conduct what Flournoy described as “joint counter-terrorism operations” with the Afghan military after that date.
The revelation came in response to a question from Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.).
“I wonder if you’ll comment on the possibility of some continuing base presence, perhaps a jointly operated system of bases, in
“When the President first announced the strategy at West Point, it was very clear that we were making an enduring long-term commitment to Afghanistan and the region, having made the mistake historically of walking away and then paid a very dear price for that so that’s been clear from the beginning,” Flournoy responded.
“It’s an important message to emphasize as we begin this transition process,” Flournoy continued.
“We just had a team in
“The president's been also very clear from the beginning that we do not seek any permanent bases in
“I should also add it goes far beyond the military demand, to look at how we can support further development of governance, economic development, and so forth,” said Flournoy.
Lieberman then asked Petraeus: “General do you want to add anything to that?”
“Again, I think it’s very important to stay engaged in a region in which we have such vital interests and I think the concept of joint-basing, the concept of providing enablers for Afghan operations and so forth, frankly similar to what we have done in Iraq since the mission changed there, would also be appropriate in Afghanistan,” said Petraeus. “Again, depending on how the circumstances evolve, noting that we’ve got nearly four years to go until that time.”
Lieberman appeared to endorse the adminisration’s decision to stay in
Since then, the administration has emphasized its plan to have Afghan forces take the lead role in that nation’s security by the end of 2014.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney reasserted this point at the White House briefing yesterday when he was asked about the agenda for the meeting that took place Monday between President Obama and Gen. Petraeus. “I believe they will discuss the president's plan to begin a transition process in July of 2011, which will begin a process that will lead to turning over the security lead to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014,” said Carney.
During his opening remarks before the Armed Services Committee today, Gen. Petraeus said he would make “a recommendation to President Obama for commencement of the drawdown of the
In response to questions from Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D.-Mich.), Gen. Petraeus said he had not yet decided on the “level of reduction” in the
Petraeus told the panel that the U.S.-led coalition is on track to letting Afghan forces take the lead in securing all regions of their country by the end of 2014.
He added that on March 21, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will announce the provinces where this transition will occur this spring.
Gen. Petraeus said there would be a “reinvestment of some of the forces freed up by transition in contiguous areas or in training mission where more work is needed.”
The general warned, however, that “while the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible.”
“Much difficult work lies ahead,” he said, noting the “expected Taliban spring offensive.”
“It’s important to remember that’s where 911 began,” Petraeus said of