The present commander, Gen. Joseph Dunford, has not said anything about specific troop levels he would recommend after 2014. He claims that he will first wait and see how well the Afghan security forces perform this summer.
There are ongoing negotiations with the Afghan government. An agreement was signed last year for a strategic partnership
. The agreement provides the possibility of continued US troop presence but the number of troops and the conditions are still being negotiated:
"When it comes to an enduring U.S. presence, President Obama has been clear: we do not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Instead, the Strategic Partnership Agreement commits Afghanistan to provide U.S. personnel access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond. The Agreement provides for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda, and commits the United States and Afghanistan to initiate negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement to supersede our current Status of Forces Agreement. "
However, Karzai has indicated that the US could keep nine bases after the 2014 pullout. While these might not be permanent presumably they could be used for the ten years that the strategic partnership agreement is in force.
Allen was upbeat
about progress in the battle against the Taliban:
"We've seen success by the Afghan national security forces. The Taliban has recognized that we're not going anywhere. Eventually our numbers will come down pretty significantly, but there's going to be an international military presence in Afghanistan for a long time."
The general is putting a brave face on what is in effect a decade of battle in which the Taliban remains undefeated. The Taliban is still so strong that even the large contingent of Afghan security forces are still unable to meet the challenge alone but will need help from outside indefinitely. As Allen
puts it :
"The international community will remain engaged. Our forces will continue to train the Afghan forces well after 2014."
Perhaps in 2024 another general will comment on the great strides forward towards defeating the Taliban who were fighting for their lives, but also note that the US will need to keep troops in Afghanistan to ensure that these two decades of progress continue.
As the appended video shows, in Iraq private contractors flooded into Iraq before the troops pulled out. The US was unable to reach an agreement on immunity for any US troops that might remain and in the end no troops remained after the Status of Forces Agreement Expired. The same issue is being debated in Afghanistan. Karzai claims he will leave the issue to be decided by a meeting of elders, a loya jirga. There could be the same outcome as in Iraq. If so we will see a further flood of private contractors invading Afghanistan.