Army Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.said that he will "re-look at" what is needed on the ground to fulfill the American counterterrorism and train, advise and assist missions in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – The President’s nominee to take the reins as the next commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the security situation there has deteriorated and promised to have a detailed assessment of the number of troops he would like to see stay in the nation after evaluating the battlefield over 90 days on the job.
Army Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., who will take Army Gen. John Campbell’s place and at the time a fourth star, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will “re-look at” what is needed on the ground to fulfill the American counterterrorism and train, advise and assist missions.
The U.S. currently has 9,800 troops operating in Afghanistan in those roles, and a plan to draw than number down to 5,500 service members by the end of the year. In October, President Barack Obama changed course from a plan to draw down to a 1,100 troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Kabul by 2017.
Campbell recently said he would like to see the 9,800 troop level kept there as long as possible, and when asked Thursday by SASC Charmian John McCain (R-Ariz.) if he agreed with Campbell’s assessment, Nicholson said he did.
“We’re not trying to create a Western-style society here,” Nicholson said. “We’re looking at an adequate level of security to prevent the re-emergence of transnational terrorist threats.”
He said that those threats have grown — with the the resurgence of the Taliban, the emergence of the so-called Islamic State and the growth of a branch of al-Qaeda in the Kandahar province.
Despite having a “tough” year and a large number of casualties, Nicholson praised the Afghani security forces. He said they do have some shortcomings “that simply take years and years to develop” — such as such as intelligence collection and air support.
McCain, a fierce critic of Obama’s foreign policy, opened the hearing with a scathing review of the President’s “calendar-based withdrawal.”
“By now, we should have learned from the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq and the disaster that ensued that wars do not end because politicians say so,” McCain said. “Nor will any politician be able to schedule an end to the threat of radical Islamist terrorism emanating from Afghanistan or the region more broadly.”
Later, McCain touted the idea of “a long-term partnership with Afghan government and military similar to the U.S. role in South Korea or Colombia.”
To this, Nicholson responded that “we do need to think about an enduring commitment to the Afghans.”
Nicholson currently serves as the commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Turkey. He is expected to be confirmed for the role as commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, taking the lead over the 14-year-old conflict.