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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Military Analyst Bing West Ponders Road Ahead In Afganistan

American officials are doing damage control again, after the Los Angeles Times published gruesome photos of American soldiers posing with the corpses of dead insurgents.

The story breaks as the U.S. and its NATO allies meet in Brussels to talk about plans to pull away from the frontlines in Afghanistan next year, and turn security responsibility over to the Afghans.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the U.S. must make a specific financial commitment to his country in the strategic plan for the future.

Bing West is a retired Marine captain and a former assistant Secretary of Defense, and he says he doesn’t believe the U.S. should speed up the timetable for withdraw of combat troops, as Australia announced it would do this week.

West Says Afghan Army Getting Better Prepared

West told Here and Now‘s Robin Young the Afghan army is getting better prepared to take control when the NATO mission ends in 2014.

West says the U.S. is getting its money’s worth from the Afghan army but not the Afghan police. But in a way he said, it doesn’t matter.

‘We’re Not Going To Be Doing Fighting In 2015’

“The fundamental issue is beyond us,” said West. “General John Allen, who is now in charge over there, has only one mission, get us out and transition to the Afghan army. And the way things are bouncing all over the place in Afghanistan, I think nobody in 2012 can predict what will happen in 2015, except one thing, we’re not going to be the ones doing the fighting in 2015.”

Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock contacted Washington Post military reporter Greg Jaffe, who has written about the challenges the U.S. military faces as it tries to make the transition for some perspective.

Jaffe said one military official told him, “We took the best mountain fighters in the world and turned them into a third-rate NATO army.”

Robin asked Bing West about that and he said, “If you look at what Gen. Allen’sĀ been trying to do, it’s coming along. They have a natural fighting capability. Will they fight the way we fight when we’re not there? Probably not. But it doesn’t mean they won’t fight.”

Afghan President Asking For Spending Commitments

As part of the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan after the U.S. mission ends, Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the U.S. to commit on paper to spending at least $2-billion a year on the Afghan military.

There’s a sense in Afghanistan that the U.S. abandoned the country when the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989. According to West, Karzai wants to know the U.S. will be giving Afghanistan enough money to pay its army after the American troops leave.

“But I don’t think we ca.n answer that question,” said West, “because it’s a question of how the Congress looks at it.”

Guest:

  • Bing West, retired Marine captain and a former assistant secretary of defense

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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