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Clinton’s General Calls for Lasting Footprint in Afghanistan

Clinton’s General Calls for Lasting Footprint in Afghanistan

The next president of the United States should stop the the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and consider expanding the capabilities of the American personnel there — or even add more troops to the mix, said John Allen, a retired four-star Marine general with close ties to presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Allen, who endorsed Clinton in a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 and later became the U.S. envoy to counter the Islamic State in 2014 before leaving public service last year.

His recommendation Tuesday to expand the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan comes ahead of next month’s 15-year anniversary of the beginning of the war, the longest in American history, and years of polling showing that most Americans believe it has not been worth fighting.

But speaking on a panel at the Brookings Institution, Allen said the war has been under-resourced, and expressed confidence Clinton would expand efforts necessary to stabilize the country.

“I would contend that our numbers were too small initially, and our horizon for departure was too soon,” he said.

“By staying at the number we are today, which would be somewhere around 8,400 … and even with the next president conceivably going up in the number or changing our capabilities mix … I believe we’ll hold what we’ve got, we’ll change the momentum,” he said.

In 2009, Clinton pushed for a bigger surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan than President Barack Obama ultimately authorized — an interagency battle that Allen said “actually” had an impact in his decision to endorse Clinton.

“She was very supportive of me as a commander in a whole variety of ways,” he told Foreign Policy.

His move to endorse Clinton on the convention stage did not come without risks. It ruffled feathers of some military brass, including Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who chastised Allen and Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for blurring the lines between military and political service in the 2016 presidential race. (Flynn has endorsed Republican Donald Trump.)

Allen could potentially be in line for a senior job in the Clinton administration should she win the presidency. In his DNC speech, he spoke out forcefully against Trump without explicitly mentioning his name.

“With [Clinton] as our commander in chief, our international relations will not be reduced to a business transaction,” he said then, a clear reference to the real estate tycoon. “I also know that our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture, and they will not be engaged in murder, or carry out other illegal activities.” Trump later shot back calling Allen a “failed general.”

Not shying away from the political limelight, Allen is scheduled to hold a conference call for the Clinton campaign on Wednesday to discuss military and veterans issues.