WASHINGTON, May 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday defended President Barack Obama's newly announced strategy on Afghanistan amid criticism that the president will withdraw troops at a much too rapid clip.
"The president set a timetable. He said in 2009: We will transfer security responsibility to the Afghans by such and such a date. That was last year and this year, predominately. We' ve done it," Kerry told the PBS News Hour host Gwen Ifill in a televised interview.
"They had a very successful election, and they provided the security and they did the planning and they did the execution. That is exactly what the president is now trying to do with respect to the final steps," he added.
Obama said the United States will keep 9,800 troops in the war-ravaged country beyond the end of combat operations this year, with all remaining troops to be pulled out by the end of 2016, after which security duties will be handed over to Afghan forces.
But many argue that the timetable is arbitrary and not based on events on the ground. Some pundits even say the deadline is a means by which Obama can promote his legacy and get credit for ending not only the war in Iraq but also the U.S. conflict in Afghanistan.
Speaking about recent comments from former vice president Dick Cheney that the Obama plan was unwise and would reinforce perceptions of U.S. weakness, Kerry said he was "not surprised to hear from Dick Cheney something that' s obviously, number one, negative, and number two, wrong."
"Dick Cheney was completely wrong about Iraq, and we are still struggling with the aftermath of what Dick Cheney and his crew thought was the right policy to go in and start a war of choice for the wrong reasons," Kerry said, referring to the U.S. war in Iraq.
"The fact is that they have been deeply, deeply wrong in the policy that they pursued, and any advice from him really has no meaning to me with respect to what we' re doing today," Kerry said.
Still, many note that the Taliban still has the capability to launch strikes in Kabul, the nation' s capital, and recent media reports point to a shadow al-Qaida army lurking within the country' s borders.
Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua it is possible that Afghan forces could be ready in time for the U.S. withdrawal in two years, but added that such a decision should be dictated by events on the ground and that the U.S. should be confident that Afghans can meet the Taliban threat.
She said that in order for the CIA to conduct intelligence operations, it will need the cover of the military presence to be in forward operating positions, as well as for security and logistics.