David S. Cloud of the Los Angeles Times reports:
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan is planning to go to the White House on Monday to argue for keeping about 10,000 troops in the country after this year, a subject that has exposed a fissure between some of President Obama's top advisors and the Pentagon.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. wants the troops there to train Afghan forces and assist them in counter-terrorism operations. They would remain in country until 2017, when President Obama leaves office.
Vice President Joe Biden favors a plan that would leave “only 1,000 to 2,000 troops” in country. Opponents of this plan
“...say a force that size is too small to protect itself while also conducting operations.”
Biden argues that the insurgency has been contained after 13 years of war and that Afghan security forces are strong enough to preserve security in urban and other key areas. He also says a stable Afghanistan is no longer critical to halting terrorist attacks against the United States ...
Then, there is a third alternative. Call it the “zero option,” scenario under which:
… no U.S. troops will remain after this year, either because Karzai or his successor will refuse to sign the security agreement, which provides legal immunity to U.S. troops, or because Obama is not persuaded by either Dunford or Biden.