Army General John Campbell says it was his “professional judgement” that President Obama should revise his plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. In that same testimony on Tuesday, Campbell also said that the United States must take the major blame for the deadly airstrike on the Kunduz hospital.
When testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, the U.S. Army General that “Based on conditions on the ground, I do believe we have to provide our senior leadership (with) options different than the current plan we are going with,” Campbell said.
Campbell pointed to the Taliban’s ability to overrun Kunduz, a northern city of about 300,000 and the capital of Kunduz province, along with the shortcomings of the Afghan National Security Forces and a growing ISIS presence as reasons for an ongoing U.S. presence.
Proposed Changes to U.S. Afghanistan Strategy Needed
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. John Campbell testified that he had provided several options to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Obama’s plan announced in 2014 to reduce U.S. forces to what McCain called an “embassy centric” presence of about 1,000 by the end of 2016.
One of the major points of disagreement was with President Obama’s plan which called for for U.S. forces to be reduced to 5,000 by the end of this year. Presently, Campbell has about 10,000 U.S. troops in his command. He did testify that Obama had shown some flexibility on his initial troop reduction plan.
During the Senate Armed Services Committee testimony, no Senators spoke out in support of Obama’s plan. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the SASC chairman, said he was against a “politically-driven withdrawal.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking Democrat on the Committee, agreed with McCain in saying withdrawals should be “based on conditions on the ground.”
Army General Points to Rise in ISIS and Failings of Afghan Forces
Along with the continued presence of the Taliban, Gen. John Campbell said that there was a growing presence of ISIS in Afghanistan which would make a complete U.S. withdrawal more risky. He went on to say that the ISIS presence was small and consisted mostly of “rebranded” Taliban rather than foreign fighters.
Those claiming allegiance to ISIS were mainly “disenfranchised Taliban” who saw the ISIS brand “as a way to gain more media, more resources, so they kind of changed T-shirts, raised a different flag,” Campbell said.
The U.S. Army General’s main reason to propose a change in President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy was how unprepared the Afghan National security forces. “They cannot handle the fight alone at this stage of (their) development,” he said.