U.S. commander in Afghanistan proposes change in withdrawal plan

xinhuanet.com 07-Oct-2015

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Commander of U.S. forces in John Campbell testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.,the on Oct. 6, 2015. Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan John Campbell said on Tuesday he had recommended changes to U.S. military withdrawal plan in Afghanistan to U.S. President . (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan John Campbell said on Tuesday he had recommended changes to U.S. military withdrawal plan in Afghanistan to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Noting that conditions on the ground had changed since mid-2014 when the current drawdown timeline was created, including the emergence of a new Afghan government and insurgence of the extremist group Islamic State, Campbell told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday the should consider backing off its plan to pull all U.S. troops out by the end of 2016.

"I put forward recommendations to adjust this new environment, while addressing our core missions ... and conduct(ing) counterterrorism operations to protect the homeland," said Campbell at a congressional hearing.

Though Afghan forces had fought well this year, the recent Taliban takeover of the important city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan highlighted shortcomings of Afghan forces, said Campbell.

"They (Afghan forces) must improve their intelligence fusion, command and control, utilization of their forces. They don't possess the necessary combat power and numbers to protect every part of the country," said Campbell.

Campbell also said Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had asked both NATO and the United States to "provide some flexibility" in planning troops withdrawal.

Obama had previously planed to reduce the current level of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to around 5,500 by the end of 2015 and withdraw all troops by the end of 2016 when Obama's presidency comes to an end.

Earlier this year, after a meeting with visiting Afghan President Ghani here, Obama announced no reduction of the current 9,800 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan will occur through the end of 2015. Enditem