Code 177814
PublishDate: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 18:40

Departing US General in Afghanistan weighs gains and uncertainty

With 11 days left in his tour, Allen says he’s proud of the growth of the Afghan security forces and the success of NATO’s troop surge.

Gen. John R. Allen was leaving Helmand province for the last time, his jet flying high above the desert moonscape that saw a bloody American military campaign and then an unprecedented withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Now, after the departure of a third of his force, it’s Allen’s turn to leave Afghanistan, where he says hard-fought security gains have often failed to bring about effective governance that would ensure long-term stability. 

Since 2001, there have been 11 commanders of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, five of whom, like Allen, also commanded NATO forces.
 
But no other general was forced to focus in equal measure on both fighting a war and withdrawing from it. 

With 11 days left in his tour, Allen says he’s proud of the growth of the Afghan security forces and the success of NATO’s troop surge in places such as southern Helmand, where four years ago the Taliban operated freely. 

Allen wants to keep between 9000 and 15000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to American officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the subject, while the Obama administration is considering a force of about half that size. White House officials told reporters this month that zero troops might remain.

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