British Armed Forces Commanders Warn Troops in Afghanistan Longer than Obama’s 2011 Withdrawal

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 3, 2009

Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(from Telegraph.co.uk) – Britain’s most senior officers have warned British forces will remain in Afghanistan for another five years, despite Barack Obama’s insistence that American forces will begin to withdraw in little over a year.

The U.S. President stipulated in his announced surge of 30,000 troops that forces would begin to exit the country by 2011.

But within hours of the announcement, British commanders countered his optimistic projection, saying forces should plan to be in Afghanistan for another five years.

The Army head, General Sir David Richards, said that while coalition forces would try to hand over to their Afghan forces as soon as possible, there was no question that they would “cut and run”.

He also pointed out that even the US Nato Commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has said forces will be in the country until 2013.

“President Obama has said that they can start to withdraw from 2011. In that period the Afghan army and police will have grown considerably so the total number of troops available on the ground to General McChrystal and his successors is significantly more… So it’s slightly false to view it as a withdrawal,” he told ITV News.

He added later: “I absolutely emphasise, I am aware of no plan that contemplates withdrawing.”

The Chief of the Defense Staff, General Sir J. Stirrup, has also warned that troops should expect to remain for five years. He said last month: “It will be a gradual process. Over time the Afghans will be taking more and more responsibility.”

[Gen. Stirrup] said that forces in Afghanistan will now be able to tackle the long-term goals of the war and Gen McChrystal now had the resources to execute his counter-insurgency plan.

“It’s what all of us who have been involved in the operation in Afghanistan have assessed is required if we are to resource a plan to deliver the strategy which we have been holding to for some time now,” he said.

He was previously one of just a few in the UK to openly criticize the amount of time Mr. Obama took to agree to the troop numbers the Nato chief had requested. The American president’s announcement last night came more than three months after Gen. McChrystal’s request.

The Armed Forces chief has shown himself more willing in recent months to comment on the political nature of the Afghanistan deployment.

It follows a tense period between Government and the Armed Forces after it emerged in the summer that [the British Labour Party] considered launching a campaign to smear General Sir Richard Dannatt, the now departed head of the Army, over candid comments he made about a lack of helicopters available to troops.

[Gen. Stirrup] publicly backed [Gen. Dannatt’s] standing up to ministers [similar to U.S. congressmen], saying in July: “It is of no interest to me what people expect of me on either side. I do what I believe is right in the situation.”

But as the Government has woken up to the need to deliver a clear message to the public in Afghanistan, and boosted the number of helicopters and armoured vehicles, it appears the relationship between military and ministers [congressmen] has harmonized.

Meanwhile Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former SAS [British special forces] commander and now special adviser to Gen McChrystal, gave a flavour of the kind of warfare Afghan insurgents can now expect.

“We are continuing to strike the Taliban and have to, till their eyeballs bleed,” he said.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk

Questions

1. How many troops has President Obama announced he will send to Afghanistan?  When did he say troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan?

2. How have British military officers contradicted the President’s timeline?

3. a) Who is General Sir David Richards?
b) What did Gen. Richards say about President Obama’s troop withdrawal date?

4. a) Who is Gen. Sir J. Stirrup?
b) What point did Gen. Stirrup stress about the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan?

5. a) What did Gen. Stirrup say about his support for British Army head Gen. Dannatt?
b) What did Lt.-Gen. Lambs say about the Taliban?
c) What do you think of comments made by these British officers? – is this unnecessary tough talk? is this the way commanders should talk?

6. With the additional troops President Obama has just authorized, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be almost 100,000.
There are 50,000 NATO troops stationed in the country (10,000 of this number are British troops) (per cnn.com)
What do you think about the contradictory timetables for troop withdrawal between President Obama and the British commanders?


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Resources

Visit the website for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Afghanistan at isaf.nato.int.

Watch a video from British Parliament: