US army may extend Afghanistan deployment due budget cuts
By Meena Haseeb - Sat Feb 16 2013, 2:31 pm
Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said the military will be able to fund training and operations for combat units in Afghanistan now and for those deploying in the summer and fall, Associated Press reported. But he says there will be delays in training for those deploying in 2014.
Odierno said he would have to send forces to war that aren’t ready or extend deployments of units already there if those training delays can’t be made up. A number of combat brigades will be deploying later this year and next year, even as the U.S. winds down the war.
While speaking during a press conference Odierno said, “We will try to divert money so we do not have to extend people in Afghanistan. That’s a very big concern of mine.”
According to Odierno the Army is facing a shortfall of as much as $8 billion in operating funds for Afghanistan, and there could be an additional $5.4 billion in cuts if Congress can’t resolve a budget standoff and automatic reductions — called sequester — go into effect.
In the meantime Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Howard “Buck” Mckeon said he expects the sequester to go into effect March 1, triggering $46 billion in automatic cuts to the overall Pentagon budget through September.
“I think it’s going to happen,” McKeon told reporters. “We have just not been able to get past the politics of it to really focus in on the devastating effects.”
This comes as President Barack Obama announced this week that he will cut the size of the U.S. force roughly in half by a year from now. There are currently about 66,000 U.S. troops at the warfront, and he said he will withdraw about 34,000 by this time next year.