The reduced scope reflects fears that the United States Congress
and European parliaments might discontinue funding unless American
and NATO troops oversee how the money is spent by Afghans.
After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a
postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty
Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist
mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more
military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid
are not squandered or pilfered.
The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears
that the United States Congress and European parliaments might
cancel their financial commitments -- amounting to more than $4
billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in
the world -- unless American and NATO troops are positioned at
Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is
spent in a country known for rampant corruption.
The reduced scope is also a result of conflicting interests among
military and political leaders that have been on display throughout
the 12-year war. Military commanders have advocated a postwar
mission focused on training and advising Afghans, with a larger
number of troops spread across the battlefield. Political leaders in
Washington and other NATO capitals have opted for smaller numbers
and assignments only at large Afghan headquarters.
Any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan "is tied
directly to the $4.1 billion and our ability to oversee it and
account for it," a senior NATO diplomat said.
"You need enough troops to responsibly administer, oversee and
account for $4 billion a year of security assistance," the diplomat
The diplomat -- who, like other military officials, spoke on the
condition of anonymity to discuss the alliance's deliberations --
described continued financing of Afghan security forces as vital to
avoid political chaos and factional bloodshed after NATO's combat
role ends in December 2014.
"It's not just the shiny object, the number of troops," he said.
"Perhaps much more meaningful is, does the funding flow?"
NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops,
with two-thirds expected to be American. That is well below earlier
recommendations by commanders, but senior alliance officials say
larger numbers are unnecessary given the more limited goals now
being set by political leaders.
The postwar plan depends on a security agreement between the
United States and Afghanistan concerning the number, role and legal
protection of American troops. But one lesson of the war in Iraq is
that domestic politics in the war zone and in Washington can scuttle
a security deal, resulting in zero American troops remaining.
Afghanistan's desire to assure the continued flow of billions of
dollars in assistance is one reason American and NATO officials are
expressing guarded optimism that an agreement will be reached.
A traditional Afghan council is expected to meet in the coming
weeks to pass its judgment on the proposed U.S.-Afghanistan
bilateral security agreement.
NATO officials say they are acutely aware that Afghanistan has
been the scene of spectacular corruption, including bank fraud, drug
trafficking and bribery for services, all of which undermines the
credibility of the Afghan government and its Western benefactors.
The problems run to the very top of the Afghan government. Many
of President Hamid Karzai's most senior aides and cabinet ministers
have grown wealthy in the past dozen years, parlaying political
power into lucrative businesses serving foreign militaries and
development projects -- or simply demanding a cut of business from
other Afghans, much as organized crime bosses offer protection in
exchange for regular payoffs. …