By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – The United States will continue to work with Afghan National Security Forces and support the fight against terrorism, a senior Defense Department official told a Senate panel yesterday.
Kelly E. Magsamen, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
“A post-2014 U.S. military presence will have two objectives,” Magsamen said. “Training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces as part of a NATO-led Resolute Support mission, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaida.”
Since assuming the lead for security across Afghanistan one year ago today, Afghan National Security Forces have proven their resilience and capability, she told panel members.
“With minimal coalition assistance, Afghan forces now plan and execute nearly all combat operations, continue to improve their capacity to execute large joint combat operations and demonstrate tactical superiority over insurgents,” Magsamen said.
The Afghan security forces recently demonstrated their capability to provide effective security for the Afghan people during both rounds of the presidential elections, she said. The Afghan government and its security forces worked closely to prepare for the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history, she added.
“The performance of the ANSF during these two rounds [of voting] is a major milestone in our efforts to develop a capable force that is accountable to the Afghan people,” Magsamen said.
“The ongoing drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces reflects the progress that the ANSF has made,” she said. “Yet, much work remains to develop a self-sufficient ANSF.”
To work toward that goal, U.S. forces will continue through 2014 to provide “a time and space” for Afghan government officials and security forces to increase their capacity, she said.
“By next year, Afghans will be fully responsible for security in their country and we will be in an advisory role, pending the conclusion of a U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement and a NATO-Afghanistan status of forces agreement,” Magsamen told the panel.
She added that President Barack Obama’s recent call for a “limited” military presence of 9,800 forces in Afghanistan in 2015 represents the expected amount of forces for NATO’s follow-on mission, Resolute Support.
In 2015, the NATO mission to train, advise and assist will focus at the corps level and above to “develop further capabilities in aviation, intelligence and special operations, as well as the capacity of Afghan security ministries,” Magsamen said.
“By the end of next year, the U.S. force presence should be reduced by roughly half and consolidated in Kabul and Bagram,” she said. “In 2016, our focus will be on advising at the ministerial level to ensure contracting, procurement and financial management practices.”
By the close of 2016, U.S. forces are expected to be limited to a Kabul base presence, with a strong security assistance component to assist in sustaining the ANSF, Magsamen said.
“We have not forgotten what brought us to Afghanistan more than a decade ago,” she said. “And our core objectives are clear: Disrupt threats posed by al-Qaida, support Afghan security forces and give the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own.”
Magsamen said the United States continues to have national security interests in South and Central Asia.
“To pursue these interests, we will continue to conduct security cooperation with these countries and the region,” she told the panel.