Afghanistan: 20,000 troops to remain?
Gen. John R. Allen, outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 troops in the country after 2014, defense officials said Jan. 2. Gen. Allen offered Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, an anonymous official told the New York Times. The 6,000 troops would mostly consist of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. With 10,000 troops, the US would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000, the US would add conventional Army forces to patrol in areas of the country.
Under an agreement between NATO and the Afghan government, the foreign combat mission in the country is to end on Dec. 31, 2014. But in recent months the Obama administration has been debating the size and mission of a residual US force to remain after 2014. (NYT, Jan. 2)
On Jan. 3, a presumed US drone strikes today killed a senior Pakistani militant commander in Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan. Mullah Nazir, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, was a target for US forces despite having agreed a ceasefire deal with Islamabad. He was believed to still be aiding Taliban forces across the border in Afghanistan. Also known as Maulvi Nazir, he survived a number of attempts on his life—most recently in November, when a suicide bomber attacked his vehicle in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. No group claimed responsibility for that attack, but soon afterwards Mullah Nazir began ejecting members of the Mehsud tribe from his area of control. (The Independent, BBC News, Jan. 3)