By Samuel Burke
(CNN) - The White House has been scaling back both troops and expectations in Afghanistan as it scales down the war there. General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, confirmed specifics of the drawdown, announcing that a quarter of American troops will be home by the end of September. But in an exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour he said he'll need strong combat forces there for the foreseeable future.
The change of in the U.S.’ definition of success in Afghanistan has even resulted in the national security advisers’ publicly saying that the U.S.’ goal is to provide a modicum of stability for Afghanistan. Even though previously, the stated goal had been to defeat, prevent, and to have high expectations for a secure Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported that aides to President Obama informally called this strategy, “Afghan Good Enough.” General Allen firmly rejected this prescription to Amanpour. “I don't use the term, ‘Afghan good enough,’ he said. “Because we're all sacrificing way too much for something that's ‘Afghan Good Enough.’ I think that term understates or undersells the commitment that we've all made to this. Afghanistan is an important country in an important region. And the outcome of our investment – this global investment of 50 nations and ISAF and many other nations who've been involved for a long period of time with great generosity – is not about being good enough.”
Recently U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, both from their respective intelligence committees, came back from a visit to Afghanistan saying the Taliban was stronger since the surge of troops to Afghanistan. When Amanpour asked General Allen about this assessment, he did not disagree.
“I don't think that there's a difference of opinion,” he said. “What I would say is that while the Taliban think that they still have the possibility of succeeding, we don't see that. We don't see that the Taliban ultimately can succeed, and it's a combination both of what the international community can do to support Afghanistan, not just in the short term, but over the long term.”
Amanpour asked Allen about Afghan forces that have been attacking NATO troops – the very same group training them up to take the reins of security. Allen bluntly stated, “Any attack is a blow, and we are very, very conscious of this. It is a tragedy every time it occurs. We should not be surprised that the Taliban seek to infiltrate the Afghan National Security Forces.”
But Allen said he remains optimistic about the rapport between the two groups . “There are tens of thousands of interactions every single day across Afghanistan between the Afghan troops and International Security Assistance Force,” he said. “On most of those, every single day we continue to deepen and broaden the relationship we seek.”
Allen rejected the notion that the U.S. and NATO are packing up and leaving Afghanistan all together.
“We are not leaving. And the narrative for the Taliban that they can wait us out is a flawed narrative,” he told Amanpour. “I think that the unambiguous international support for Afghanistan has been a very powerful message. You know, that was the message that came out of the NATO summit. We will not abandon Afghanistan. The international community's role here over the long term is good for the region.”
And he told Amanpour that he has promised President Obama an analysis following the drawdown of the 23,000 troops on what we he thinks forces will need in Afghanistan in 2013.
“That analysis will include an analysis of the state of the Taliban, the insurgency, how the Afghan National Security Forces are doing, and what we anticipate the operational environment being in 2013.”