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Iran Press TV

US troop reduction will harm Afghan training mission: General

Iran Press TV

Fri Feb 5, 2016 9:57AM

The top commander of American forces in Afghanistan warns that the planned withdrawal of thousands of US troops from the war-ravaged country will harm efforts to train and support local security forces.

Addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington DC on Thursday, Army General John Campbell said the troop cuts could allow Afghan militants to carry out more attacks in the country.

Campbell, who is expected to retire soon, sparred with the committee's chairman, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and other senators over the wisdom of the troop reductions.

McCain, one of President Barack Obama's harshest critics on national security issues, wanted to know whether the troop number is adequate to perform the training mission as well as counterterrorism operations as Obama has said it would be.

Campbell said much will depend on how quickly the Afghan forces improve. If they do not, he said, the number of American troops will most likely need to increase.

But Campbell, who is planning to retire from military service, said he is preparing to go down to 5,500 'as I am ordered.' He said the decision to announce the troop withdrawals was a policy decision and not a military one.

'Ultimately the president makes the decision, and that's the policy that we follow,' Campbell said. 'We follow orders. If it's not immoral, (if) it's not illegal, then you've got to do to the best of your ability to make sure that you can accomplish the mission.'

McCain said it is unrealistic to expect a reduced force to handle the dual mission of training the Afghans and counterterrorism. 'This smaller American force will inevitably be forced to shoulder a higher level of risk to themselves, to their mission and to the national security of the United States,' McCain said as quoted by AP.

Campbell's comments come after Obama proposed plans to cut the current US troops in Afghanistan down by some 4,300 forces, which leaves 5,500 soldiers in the country.

Afghanistan was invaded by US-led NATO forces in 2001 to overthrow Taliban and eliminate al-Qaeda, but insecurity and insurgency continue to plague the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops.

The US military presence goes directly against Obama's pre-election pledge to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan before leaving office by the end of this year.

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