By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 – President Barack Obama is reviewing options from his national security team on what the possible U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will look like after 2014, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
The president has the “time and space” to make the decision, Little told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Any potential U.S. military presence beyond 2014 will focus on two basic missions: targeting al-Qaida and its affiliates and training and equipping the Afghan security forces and partners,” Little said.
The size of U.S. forces will be covered under the Bilateral Security Agreement, which is under discussion between the United States and Afghanistan.
The United States supports a full, fully sovereign, democratic, and united Afghanistan, Little said.
“We’re committed to peace and reconciliation in the country,” he said. “And we remain prepared to negotiate with our Afghan partners to conclude the BSA, one that supports our shared objectives.”
These discussions continue, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continues talks with Afghan partners and with the NATO/U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., on the subject.
“We will continue to work through these issues,” Little said.
He emphasized there is plenty of time for the two nations to negotiate the security agreement.
“It’s July of 2013, and our drawdown won’t be complete until December 2014,” he said. Discussions will be influenced by intervening events and issues, including the Afghan elections next April.
The United States is not frustrated with the progress [or lack of progress] on the agreement, Little said.
“We continue to work through issues,” he said. “We realize that there are going to be points of contention from time to time. That’s natural of any partnership. But we think we can get through them.”
All options are on the table in regards to a post-2014 U.S. presence in Afghanistan, Little said. This includes the so-called “zero-option” that White House official Ben Rhodes spoke about in January, Little said. This option, he said, is a possibility.
Afghan forces now lead the security effort throughout the country, and U.S., NATO and partner-nation troops are working with, training and equipping the Afghans, Little said.
“And we’re seeing progress being made by the Afghan forces,” he said. “They are making great sacrifices on behalf of their own country. They have demonstrated great resolve to take the fight to the enemy, and we’re impressed by what we’ve seen.”