US pitches investors on Afghan airfields as drawdown looms
Sep. 30, 2015
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. and Afghan officials pitched investors Wednesday on doing business on military airfields that NATO troops will withdraw from in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban insurgency rages on in the country.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan hosted the meeting in Dubai as Afghan forces aided by U.S. airstrikes targeted Taliban fighters in the city of Kunduz.
The Taliban seized the city Monday, the first they've taken since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
The U.S. and other foreign troops plan to withdraw entirely from these bases, meaning Afghan forces would be tied down defending them unless private industry moves in and provides guards, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Todd Semonite said.
"There will be insurgents over time that can continue to mass ... but the Afghan defense forces are able to come back in and be able to retake those areas," Semonite told The Associated Press. "Kunduz is going to end up being resolved here shortly."
Current U.S. plans call for a drawdown to about 1,000 military personnel by the end of next year. However, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has offered plans keeping a higher level of troops.
Officials offered investors details about several airfields, including the one in Kandahar in the Taliban heartland. Some fields already have commercial passenger and cargo flights, while others do not. Many also included a suggested guard force of several hundred.
"Naturally, security is a problem," said Daoud Sultanzoy, an adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. "We don't want to be in denial, but we cannot wait until the security becomes a zero issue. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time."
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