- ‘Gay Jeans’ that fade into rainbow-colored denim created
- Divided court strikes down big porn award
- Jimmy Carter: Don’t hurt Russian people with sanctions
- Oldest ex-MLB player dies in Cuba, 2 days shy of 103rd birthday
- ‘Top Gun’ for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy’s approval
- Bill Clinton to endorse Charlie Rangel for re-election
- Pfc. Bradley Manning is now Pfc. Chelsea Manning: Court says so
- Secret base U.S. special forces used to train Libyans now under terrorist control: report
- 9th suspect in N.C. kidnapping turns self in to FBI
- L.A. sheriff admits to testing flyover spy program without notifying residents
Panetta: U.S. combat in Afghanistan to end next year
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — U.S. and other international forces in Afghanistan aim to end their combat role next year and switch to training and advising Afghan forces through 2014, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday.
Mr. Panetta’s remarks to reporters traveling with him to a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels represented the Obama administration’s most explicit portrayal of how the foreign military role in Afghanistan is expected to evolve from the current high-intensity fight against the Taliban to a support role with Afghans fully in the lead.
He noted that NATO and the Afghan government intend to begin a final phase of transitioning sections of the country to Afghan security control in mid-2013.
“Hopefully, by the mid to latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise-and-assist role,” he said.
He added that this “doesn’t mean we’re not going to be combat ready,” but rather that the U.S. and other international forces will no longer be in “the formal combat role we’re in now.”
Mr. Panetta said no decisions have been made about how many U.S. troops would be required to remain there after the combat role has ended.
He suggested, however, that large reductions, below the 68,000-troop level projected for this September, were unlikely in the months immediately after the shift.
The U.S. now has about 91,000 troops there as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The fact that much military work will remain after 2013 “demands that we have a strong presence there,” he said.
Though Mr. Panetta made no mention of it, U.S. Marines in Afghanistan already are making that transition out of a combat role. They are operating in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been greatly weakened, and are on track to reduce their numbers significantly this year.
Mr. Panetta’s remarks indicated that this switch into a support role will be applied across Afghanistan, assuming no major setbacks against the Taliban and continued progress in training Afghan forces.
Many U.S. forces already are training and advising Afghan forces.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the overall commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has been talking publicly since last fall about converting the military role from combat to what he has called “security assistance.”
But Mr. Panetta went further in identifying mid- to late-2013 as the target for completing this conversion countrywide.
TWT Video Picks
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Obama's veil of secrecy is pierced
- CARSON: When government looks more like foe than friend
- Pentagon plans to replace flight crews with 'full-time' robots
- 'Top Gun' for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy's approval
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, ripped as lawless deadbeat
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- Texas is next! AG warns BLM wants 90,000 acres after Bundy ranch standoff
- Opposition rising to Colorado gun control laws
- Harry Reid using tax dollars to fight Koch brothers, La. GOP chair charges
- Georgia governor signs bill expanding gun rights
- Russian bombers buzz U.K. airspace; jets scrambled to chase off 'Bears'
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Celebrity deaths in 2014