U.S. planning to reduce civilian force in Afghanistan after troops' withdrawal
The Obama administration has ordered significant cutbacks in initial plans for a robust U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops withdraw in 2014.
Learning from Iraq, where postwar ambitions proved unsustainable, the White House and top State Department officials are confronting whether the United States needs - and can protect - a large diplomatic compound in Kabul, four consulates around the country and other civilian outposts to oversee aid projects and monitor Afghanistan's political pulse.
Planners were recently told to reduce personnel proposals by at least 20 percent, a senior administration official said, the Washington Post reports.
"As we saw in the Iraq exercise, you need to be very tough on the numbers going in," the official said, adding: "We need to have enough civilians to achieve the goals we've laid out," within "a finite amount of money we have to spend."
According to the report, last month, the administration began what is likely to be a year-long negotiation with the Afghan government over how many troops the U.S. military will leave behind when combat ends in 2014.
Even if the negotiations succeed and a sizable American force remains, the U.S. military is certain to curtail or stop the security and other services it provides U.S. government civilians in Afghanistan, the report said.
"How do you do security? How do you do mobility? These are expensive propositions when State has to do it all itself," Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan until last summer, said in an interview.
Those concerns were echoed by Sarah Chayes, who has spent years in Afghanistan and was an adviser to the U.S. military command there, the report said.
"There is a significant risk that the conditions in Afghanistan are going to be too hostile for an influx of civilians to be able to function," she said.