Petraeus: Obama Drawdown Based on Broad Considerations

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma con­sid­ered the mil­i­tary impli­ca­tions of a draw­down in Afghanistan, as well as broad­er con­sid­er­a­tions, in decid­ing to remove surge forces by the end of next sum­mer, Army Gen. David Petraeus said today.
The com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan spoke before the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee here dur­ing a hear­ing to con­firm his nom­i­na­tion as the next CIA direc­tor.

Petraeus described White House dis­cus­sions about the draw­down of 33,000 troops by the end of next sum­mer, which the pres­i­dent announced last night, as “vig­or­ous.”

“All voic­es were heard in the Sit­u­a­tion Room and, ulti­mate­ly, the deci­sion was made,” he said.

The gen­er­al said he sup­ports the deci­sion and will do all he can to imple­ment it dur­ing his remain­ing time in Afghanistan, and if con­firmed, at CIA.

Petraeus said his respon­si­bil­i­ty as a com­bat com­man­der was to give the pres­i­dent options for imple­ment­ing his stat­ed pol­i­cy, as well as the risks involved. But, he said, oth­er advi­sors were respon­si­ble for rais­ing con­sid­er­a­tions beyond the mil­i­tary.

“Each per­son above me, all the way up to and includ­ing the pres­i­dent, has a broad­er view and has broad­er con­sid­er­a­tions that are brought to bear,” he said, “with the pres­i­dent alone in the posi­tion of eval­u­at­ing all those dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­a­tions.”

Petraeus acknowl­edged that the ulti­mate deci­sion was “a more aggres­sive for­mu­la­tion in terms of the time­line than what we had rec­om­mend­ed.” But, he said, it was “under­stand­able in the sense that there are broad­er con­sid­er­a­tions beyond those of a mil­i­tary com­man­der.”

Troops will begin tran­si­tion­ing home next month from sev­en loca­tions in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, includ­ing the cap­i­tal of Kab­ul and its sur­round­ing province, two oth­er provinces, and four munic­i­pal dis­tricts.

A tran­si­tion, essen­tial­ly, has already has tak­en place in each area, the gen­er­al said, adding that it is “strik­ing” that Lashkar Gah and sur­round­ing Hel­mand province – the hotbed of the insur­gency when Marines deployed there a year ago – is among them.

“This is made pos­si­ble because, over time, [Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Forces] have thinned out and Afghan forces have very much stood up to the point that there are vir­tu­al­ly no ISAF forces polic­ing the streets there, nor are they in Kab­ul,” he said.

More troops will leave Afghanistan this fall, and again in the spring and fall of 2012, Petraeus said.

Com­man­ders on the ground have some flex­i­bil­i­ty in deter­min­ing which forces leave, the gen­er­al said. Already, some troops are going home with­out replace­ment, and oth­ers have been iden­ti­fied, he added.

“We’re con­stant­ly refin­ing and updat­ing our cam­paign plan, and we’ll do anoth­er round of that with the deci­sion hav­ing been made,” he said.

Even while U.S. forces are leav­ing Afghanistan, Petraeus said, “Some 70,000 addi­tion­al Afghan forces [will be] added, based on our pro­jec­tions.”

These include 50,000 Afghan sol­diers and nation­al police, and 20,000 or so Afghan Pub­lic Pro­tec­tion forces, secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors under the con­trol of the Inte­ri­or Min­istry. He called their addi­tion “a very impor­tant action that is just begin­ning.”

Oth­er forces on the ground, he said, include those sup­port­ed by var­i­ous agen­cies, and inter­na­tion­al ele­ments such as coun­tert­er­ror­ist pur­suit teams under the Afghan intel­li­gence ser­vice.

“It will be crit­i­cal that we accel­er­ate this as much as we can,” Petraeus said, ” … so we can do that hand­off [to Afghan forces] as our forces thin out.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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