In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, the U.S. military commander atop international forces in Afghanistan said U.S. forces would not be leaving the war-torn Central Asian country any time soon. The comments by Gen. John Allen, who took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) when Gen. David Petraeus stepped down to take the helm of the C.I.A. in July, fall in line with other U.S. and international officials since President Obama announced in June that a complete transition to Afghan security responsibility would take place by the end of 2014.
CBS’s Scott Pelley asked Gen. Allen what his plan for Afghanistan was:
ALLEN: Well the plan is to — is to win. The plan is to be successful and the United States is gonna be here for some period of time.
PELLEY: …You’re talking about U.S. forces being here after 2014?
ALLEN: Yes, there will be.
PELLY: …Are we talking about fighting forces?
ALLEN: We’re talking about forces that will provide an advisory capacity. And we may even have some form of counter-terrorism force here to continue the process of developing the Afghan’s counter-terrorism capabilities. But, if necessary, respond ourselves.
PELLEY: But what you’re saying is that the United States isn’t leaving Afghanistan in the foreseeable future?
ALLEN: Well that’s an important message.
As for specific numbers of U.S. forces that will remain, Allen said it was “too early to tell.”
Also in the 60 Minutes segment, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, in response to a direct question form Pelley, offered a veiled acknoweldgement that the U.S. was talking to at least some factions of the Taliban-led insurgency: “[W]e talk to the whole range of people, anyone who will talk to us. You can draw your own conclusions.”
Allen recounted a recent episode where he’d gone to Pakistan to ask the top military commander there, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to help stop a truck bomb that U.S. intelligence indicated was travelling from Pakistan to Afghanistan to target U.S. troops. “We think it ultimately exploded against the outer wall of one of our combat outposts,” said Allen. “Seventy-seven [Americans] were wounded that day.”