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U.S. Asks NATO for Flexibility in Afghan Drawdown Plans

by Halimah Abdullah /
Image: U.S. Defense Secretary Carter talks next his Italian counterpart Pinotti (not seen) during a news conference in Rome
Defense Secretary Ash Carter ALESSANDRO BIANCHI / Reuters

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The United States asked NATO allies on Thursday for flexibility as the alliance reviews its plans to rapidly withdraw troops from Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday after talks in Brussels.

"I have asked all of the NATO partners to remain flexible and to consider the possibility of making adjustments to a plan that is now two-and-a-half years old for the presence in Afghanistan," Carter said. "A number of countries today indicated a willingness to change their plans and posture."

In recent weeks, U.S. military leaders have vocalized their concerns that the recent resurgence in Taliban attacks and the presence of additional militants, including ISIS fighters, could require a change in President Barack Obama's plan to withdraw almost all American forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week said "a lot has happened since the president's decision".

"Based on conditions on the ground, I do believe we have to provide senior leaders with options," Campbell said. He did not provide numbers during the hearing. However, before leaving his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey provided the White House with a plan that would leave at least 5,000 American service members in Afghanistan beyond the president's 2017 deadline.

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