Notes below from FNC’s Justin Fishel: (note pic is from my trip to Afghanistan with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton)
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a nearly empty hearing room Wednesday, the top Commander in Afghanistan warned the country would deteriorate quickly if the US withdrew at the end of this year. The Taliban would view it as a victory, Al Qaeda would be inspired to return, women would suffer, and the Afghan security forces would not be able to complete necessary training.
He described Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as “fighting for survival,” but that would change he said if the U.S. were to leave now. “Without continued counterterrorism pressure, an emboldened al- Qaida will not only begin to physically reconstitute but they’ll also exploit their perceived victory to boost recruitment, fundraising and morale.”
Dunford said withdrawing at the end of the year would “allow them to once again establish preeminence in the region and become the vanguard for the al-Qaida movement from the region.”
As for the Taliban? “We know from intelligence that they have every intent of continuing to operate from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Dunford said. “They would view it as a great victory were we to withdraw and where they would then have the space within which to conduct operations against the West once again.”
Dunford said even if the U.S. was able to sign a security pact with Afghanistan allowing as many as 10,000 troops to stay, there is a risk associated with drawing that force down by the end of Obama’s term in 2017, as the WSJ reports is the intended course. Sen. John McCain, who supports keeping a residual force in Afghanistan, told Dunford that if the plan is to simply remove them after two years he wouldn’t support keeping them there. McCain called it “a needless risk of American lives.”
Gen. Dunford also said that in the event Russia were to block exits routes to the north the U.S. would have no problems leaving Afghanistan by the end of the year. “We’ve got resilience in the system and I’m not concerned at all about a loss of the Russian northern distribution network,” Dunford said.