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Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:05 AM

Afghan troop cuts invite comparison to Iraq


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, to consider the nominations of Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, left, for reappointment to the grade of general and to be commander of the U.S. Central Command, and Gen. David M. Rodriguez, right, for reappointment to the grade of general and to be commander of the U.S. Africa Command.

Afghan troop cuts invite comparison to Iraq
By LOLITA C. BALDOR | Associated Press 17 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) As the U.S. looks to reduce American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan after 2014, Congress members are making comparisons to Iraq and predicting a sharp decline in troops will quickly lead to increased violence and instability.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, lawmakers pressed the Army general expected to become the top U.S. commander in the Middle East for his assessment of the reduced force.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin who oversaw the final U.S. drawdown in Iraq agreed that plans to sharply decrease the number of Afghan security forces after 2014 could open the door to more Taliban violence. And he said that keeping a larger Afghan force would give the Afghanistan government time to mature and reassure allies of America's commitment to the region.

Under the agreement reached at the NATO summit in Chicago last year, allies would fund an Afghan force of 230,000 after 2014, down from the planned peak of 352,000. It would cost the allies about $4.1 billion annually.

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