Senators to Ask US General about Troop Levels in Afghanistan

In this Dec. 28, 2014 file photo, Gen. John Campbell is seen in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)
In this Dec. 28, 2014 file photo, Gen. John Campbell is seen in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)

WASHINGTON  — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan will face questions from a Senate committee about how many troops should stay in the still-volatile nation where the Taliban recently overran a northern city and a U.S. airstrike hit a medical clinic. When he testifies Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. John F. Campbell will be asked whether he thinks President Barack Obama should alter his plan for reducing the U.S. troop presence after 2016 from its current level of about 9,800 to an embassy-based security operation of about 1,000. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that the Pentagon is providing options to the White House and Obama will be making decisions about future force levels later this fall. Campbell is testifying three days after the airstrike on the medical clinic in the northern city of Kunduz killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens more. The clinic was operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. On Monday, Campbell told reporters at the Pentagon that the airstrike, which is being investigated, was requested by Afghan forces who reported coming under Taliban fire. It's unclear whether the clinic was targeted in error or whether U.S. military personnel followed procedure. They are required to verify that the target of a requested airstrike is valid before firing. In response to Campbell's remarks, the medical organization's general director, Christopher Stokes, said the U.S. had admitted that it attacked the facility. "The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition," Stokes said. "There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical." Kunduz has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent days. A Taliban assault on Kunduz took Afghan authorities by surprise and embarrassed President Ashraf Ghani's administration. The Taliban, who attacked on multiple fronts, held the city for three days before a government counter-offensive began. Afghan forces say they have retaken Kunduz, an important city on the Tajikistan border, a hub for smuggling routes for drugs and guns to and from Central Asian countries.

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