US in Afghanistan beyond 2014: Gen. Dunford

From Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Nov. 15:

The next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is prepared to testify that he wants to see a robust U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, as U.S. and Afghan negotiators began formal work on that troop presence Thursday in Kabul.

Gen. Joe Dunford will be the sole nominee appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. President Barack Obama has chosen Dunford to succeed Gen. John Allen to lead the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Allen, who was nominated to be the next Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), will not testify today because he is under investigation for engaging in a potentially inappropriate e-mail relationship with Tampa socialite (and "honorary consul" of South Korea) Jill Kelley.

According to his written answers to questions posed in advance by senators, obtained by The Cable, Dunford is ready to tell Congress that he supports U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan for a host of missions in 2015 and beyond, which matches the Obama administration's plans, despite some high-level administration statements to the contrary.

"In my view our overall objective in Afghanistan after 2014 will be to sustain our hard-won security gains after 2014 so that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists," Dunford wrote to the senators. "To accomplish this objective, the primary missions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan should be to (1) train, advise, and assist the ANSF; (2) provide support to civilian agencies, and (3) conduct counter-terrorism operations.  This mission set will include force protection for our brave young men and women and, as available, the provision of in extremissupport for our Afghan forces."

During his debate with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Vice President Joe Biden said that U.S. forces would leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Yes, but in January 2011, Biden also said US troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Obama's US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement actually allows for the presence of US forces in the country beyond the 2014 deadline.

But of course there is little media interest in this, compared to the lurid details of the sex scandal that brought down Gen. Allen.