Biden Pushes for Larger Afghanistan Drawdown

But military officials are privately calling for at least three times the number of troops to remain than the VP prefers.

Leader of the Gang of Six, Vice President Joe Biden.
National Journal
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Jordain Carney
Jan. 17, 2014, 5:46 a.m.

Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden is push­ing for al­most all U.S. troops to be out of Afgh­anistan by the end of the year, des­pite re­com­mend­a­tions from mil­it­ary of­ficers, of­fi­cials said.

Biden has pre­vi­ously been un­suc­cess­ful in his push for a small force — pos­sibly between 2,000 to 3,000 troops — but in­creas­ing frus­tra­tion with Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai is help­ing the pro­pos­al gain mo­mentum.

But some De­fense of­fi­cials told The Wall Street Journ­al that re­mov­ing all U.S. troops from Afgh­anistan — known as the “zero op­tion” — would make more sense than Biden’s smal­ler fig­ure, which they be­lieve would be in­ef­fect­ive. Those of­fi­cials prefer that the United States keep between 9,000 to 12,000 troops in the coun­try.

Ad­voc­ates for a lar­ger force pres­ence after 2014 are wor­ried that of­fer­ing such a small num­ber of troops would make it harder to reach a bi­lat­er­al se­cur­ity agree­ment. U.S. of­fi­cials and West­ern al­lies are frus­trated with Kar­zai for re­fus­ing to sign a bi­lat­er­al agree­ment with the United States un­til after the coun­try’s elec­tions later this year.

But an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial pushed back say­ing that Biden hasn’t re­com­men­ded — or re­jec­ted — any spe­cif­ic troop level.

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