By James West
Yesterday’s announcement of a new timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal will see the full 9,800 U.S. contingent remain in Afghanistan through at least the end of 2015. This marks an important, positive step in building Afghan stability as it acknowledges that while the combat mission may have ended, much work remains to be done. Equally important is the pledge to request Congress’ continued funding of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), maintaining a goal of 352,000 soldiers and policemen through 2017 and costing roughly $4 billion dollars. Continuing U.S. support will be required as Afghanistan seeks to develop and diversify its infrastructure and economy, secure international aid, and enhance regional integration necessary to prevent disintegration along ethnic lines and an amplified civil war. All of these steps are necessary to keep Afghanistan safe, free, and secure.