White House Senior Administration officials yesterday held an "on-the-record" conference call on Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who will visit the White House Friday. President Obama will have a bilateral meeting on Friday with President Karzai with their delegations, a working lunch here at the White House, and then a joint press conference with the two Presidents.
During the course of the conference call it was obvious the Obama Administration was floating the idea of a "zero" U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The National White House Examiner participated in the conference call.
Ben Rhodes said that the purpose of the meting of the two Presidents is to see "how do we most successfully achieve our core objectives while bringing the war to an end by the end of 2014."
Rhodes also emphasized that the "core goal is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, and to ensure that they can never return to Afghanistan and use it as a safe haven from which they could launch attacks against the United States or our allies."
The conference call was hosted by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, and Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for South Asia, General Doug Lute.
The question that was raised in respect to troop levels. A reporter asked Ben Rhodes "There's been some talk in recent days in some circles about a so-called "zero option" -- that is no U.S. troops to remain on the ground based in Afghanistan after 2014. Is that an option you're considering? And could you also walk us through some of the other options you're considering?"
To which Ben Rhodes responded, "that would be an option that we would consider, because the President does not view these negotiations as having a goal of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan." Rhoddes added that "The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of X number of troops in Afghanistan."
However, Ben Rhodes also made it clear that the United States would continue to support the people of Afghanistan, just the possibility that the support would not necessarily be with U.S. troops.
Ben Rhodes said that "there is an interest in an enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. Afghans need to know that as they stand up for their security, they won't stand alone. And so, therefore, they know, for instance, that there is going to be sufficient resources from the U.S. and international community for their security forces after 2014."
General Doug Lute added that "The Afghan National Security Forces are a work in progress." General Lute added that "a lot of progress over the last three or four years, but they're not -- that’s not a completed task."
The unique nature of this "on-the-record" conference call, shows that the Obama Administration is leaning toward a troop level of "zero" after the 2014 Afghan withdrawal. More clarity on the issue is expected after President Obama meets with President Hamid Karzai on Friday.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books