Security and Defence

Policy briefs

Keeping options open

29 Mar 2013 - 10:39

Why the number of US military troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 matters.

Clingendael's Visiting Fellow Jorrit Kamminga analyses in Clingendael Policy Brief no. 18 the importance of the current debate on how many US military troops will stay behind in Afghanistan after the completion of the security transition in 2014. The outcome of that debate is not only important for Afghanistan, but also for other NATO countries. In fact, a US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 would be an important enabler for international training and security efforts in the country.

As Afghanistan moves from transition to the transformational decade (2015-2024), the author argues that a US residual force would guarantee the long term sustainability of training efforts directed at Afghan security forces. It would also provide immediate military options for the international community in case the security situation deteriorates drastically. In addition, a US military presence will make it easier for other countries to commit military assets and possibly (special) forces to Afghanistan beyond 2014. And, finally, at the moment the US would provide the only serious international counter-terrorism capacity in the region. While the US is negotiating an extended military presence in Afghanistan with the Afghan government, other countries should start thinking about their own role in the post-2014 security environment. The alternative is that they will be totally dependent on the US, with zero influence on strategy, military means and military outcomes should things go completely wrong in Afghanistan.