Newspaper article International New York Times

Uncertainty over Karzai Hinders Allies on Planning ; Generals Preparing Force Strong Enough to Stay but Nimble Enough to Exit

Newspaper article International New York Times

Uncertainty over Karzai Hinders Allies on Planning ; Generals Preparing Force Strong Enough to Stay but Nimble Enough to Exit

Article excerpt

Military planners, facing continued political uncertainty, have set in motion a plan designed to give NATO's political leadership maximum flexibility, senior officials said.

American and NATO military planners, facing continued political uncertainty about whether foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan after December, have drawn up plans to deploy a force this summer that is tailored to assume a training mission in 2015 but is also small enough to withdraw if no deal for an enduring presence is reached, alliance officials have said.

With President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign security agreements approving a presence for American and NATO troops after 2014, allied military planners must prepare for both the sudden success and the abject failure of proposals for a continuing mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after combat operations officially end this year.

The decision on whether to extend the foreign military presence is a political one, and it will be decided first by Mr. Karzai and then by President Obama and the elected leaders from NATO nations. The process has brought vitriol in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and deep concern in Washington and allied capitals.

The delays have complicated military planning, since the governments of nations that contribute troops must approve any sustained deployments -- and the required financing -- months in advance, with a number of notional deadlines for finishing an agreement already long passed.

In preparing the mechanics of this summer's regular troop rotation, American and NATO military commanders have set in motion a plan intended to give the alliance's political leadership maximum flexibility, according to senior NATO officials.

These deployment plans would put in place a coalition military force sufficient to carry out a training mission beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, if Mr. Karzai relents, and small enough for an exit by Dec. 31 of this year if a political stalemate results in the so-called zero option, alliance officials said.

As of Friday, there were about 36,500 American troops in Afghanistan, and about 19,000 other allied forces. …

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