The drawdown in Afghanistan is speeding up. President Obama–who met with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on Friday–said U.S. troops will end most combat operations by the spring. “Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission: training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Obama said from the White House. The timeline was previously in the middle of 2013.
The president said he hasn’t decided what the exact pace of the drawdown will be, but would make a decision after talking with senior military members on the ground.
There are currently 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan, the majority of whom are expected to leave by 2014. It’s unclear how many would stay. Obama made a point of saying the remaining service members would have immunity from potential prosecution for doing their jobs—a point that could come into contention later on.
Karzai, standing next to Obama, said he was “very happy” that Afghans would be taking over. “The American forces will be no longer present in the villages, that it will be the task of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection,” he added.
The 11-year war has taken the lives of more than 2,000 Americans, and the U.S. has spent more than $500 billion on the war so far.
But is Afghanistan ready to take over? How willing are Afghans to fight the Taliban, and what exactly will an American presence in the country look like? Retired Army captain Wes Moore and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) joined Hardball on Friday to discuss.
Moran said it was likely that about 6,000 troops would remain in 2014. “A lot of work is going to be done by contractors, not U.S. troops,” the lawmaker said. “But we can’t afford to continue spending the kind of money we’re spending…What have we gotten for it?”
Moore acknowledged it was unclear if Afghans would be willing to fight the Taliban after the U.S. leaves. “That becomes the biggest challenge. We do not know. There will probably be 25 people who will run for the presidency of Afghanistan…the question is who they will fight for?” said Moore.