The top U.S. Marine general said President Barack Obama’s announced July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan had given “sustenance” to the Taliban.
“We know the president was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011,” Gen. James Conway told reporters on Tuesday. “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance….In fact, we’ve intercepted communications that say, ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’”
Conway, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said he expected Marines to remain on the ground in southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold for the Taliban, well after July 2011, though he himself is set to retire in the fall.
“I certainly believe that some American units somewhere in Afghanistan will turn over responsibilities to Afghanistan security forces in 2011, I do not think they will be Marines,” he said.
The Marines form only one part of the 78,000-strong U.S. troop contingent, which is in turn part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which includes some 120,000 troops from 47 nations.