Kabul – An American proposal to cut the size of Afghan security forces by more than one third after 2014 could lead to a catastrophe, Afghanistan's defense minister told The Wall Street Journal, underlining his government's growing fears of being abandoned after most foreign troops withdraw.
The minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, expressed his concerns after the U.S., which along with its allies funds Afghanistan's military and police forces, circulated a new proposal to cut troops to 230,000 after 2014, from 352,000 this year.
That proposed troop reduction, discussed at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ministerial meeting in Brussels, was confirmed in an interview by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, commander of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan that developed it.
The smaller Afghan force, estimated to cost some $4.1 billion a year, reflects "our assessment of what the international community will provide and what the Afghans can provide for themselves," Bolger said.
The Afghan government is still negotiating with the U.S. over what kind of American military presence, if any, will remain in the country after that deadline. With most of the U.S.-led coalition forces scheduled to leave Afghanistan by late 2014, a robust Afghan army and police will be needed to keep the Taliban insurgency at bay, Afghan leaders and some American lawmakers say.
"Nobody at this moment, based on any type of analysis, can predict what will be the security situation in 2014. That's unpredictable," Wardak said. "Going lower [in Afghan troop numbers] has to be based on realities on the ground. Otherwise it will be a disaster, it will be a catastrophe, putting at risk all that we have accomplished together with so much sacrifice in blood and treasure."