US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Friday ruled out any changes in the troops’ withdrawal plan in view of the recent increase in terrorist attacks in and outside Kabul.
“With respect to the force presence in Afghanistan, no change there. The US President did decide earlier this year to sustain the presence at 9,800 through this year, in order to be able to provide the most advisory and assist capability to the Afghan security forces, along with our coalition partners, that we could,” Carter told reporters in San Diago, California.
The plan made two years ago, is to draw down to a Kabul-based presence by the end of next year, he said.
Of course, and very importantly, continue both from the United States and the coalition, to make substantial contributions to the support of the Afghan security forces. After all, it is the Afghan security forces that are going to keep the peace and keep the Taliban on the ropes in the long run, he noted.
The President, he said, has indicated that he wants to look again at the counter terrorism dimensions of that, and other dimensions. And that he would be doing that in the course of the fall, and obviously, that time hasn't come yet, the Defense Secretary said.
Carter praised the capabilities of the Afghan Security forces in protecting the country from the Taliban attack this fighting season. “This was the first fighting season, and of course, it's not over yet, where the Afghan security forces have been largely been on their own,” he said.
“They have largely in most places, and in most times, done very well. This without a lot of American support. That's a credit to the training and equipment that the United States gave them, above all to the circumstances we created in Afghanistan over the years of conflict there, and also I should say, to the National Unity government of President Ghani,” Carter said.
“When there are special circumstances, wherein assistance by the coalition could make a material difference, we have said since we began the transition, that we would be prepared to intervene,” he said.