August 24th, 2010
03:17 PM ET

Conway says U.S. troops could be in Afghanistan for years

Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said Tuesday that it will be a "few years" before the U.S. could turn over the fight to Afghan Security Forces.

President Barack Obama has ordered a withdrawal to begin in less than a year, although he has not said how many U.S. troops should withdraw or how fast when that July 2011 deadline arrives.

"I think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that we would expect to be able to turn it over to the Afghan forces. And I think there's a mindset that needs to accompany that on the part of our Marines, that it may be a while," Conway told reporters at the Pentagon in what may be his last briefing here before his expected retirement this fall.

He quoted one of his officers who said, "either lose fast or win slow."

But Conway emphasized that his Marines are already working with Afghan forces to get them ready for the day when the turnover does happen. "We're partnering right now, almost on every patrol, with Afghan security forces when we go out," Conway said. "The time that we're there, the shaping operation is in a transition for the entire time, transitioning host nation forces to the point where they can do those things."

Conway said for now President Obama's July 2011 deadline is making it tough for Marines in Afghanistan. "We think right now it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think he may be saying to himself, in fact we've intercepted communications, saying 'hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long!'," Conway said.

But he added that later, the pendulum may swing when the Taliban leadership sees that the U.S. is not leaving en masse.

Conway also predicted that the Marine Corps he has served for more than 40 years will soon get smaller. "I think in time, after Afghanistan, that 202,000 Marines in a peace-time Marine Corps is probably too many. People are expensive. I don't know that we could keep 202,000 Marines constructively occupied."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Security Brief
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Dale

    The reason why if there is no war going on someplace in the world there's going to be a lot of special-interest contractors like Blackwater security and others out of work.
    And is going to be the same way with defense contractors they are irrelevant when there's no war going on.
    There a lot of career politicians that have a lot of these people in their districts that pay them under the table money all the time.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      As a rule of thumb, PMCs do not act where they determine it is detrimental to their home nation (often the United States filling this role), but the PMCs do not require an Afghanistan or an Iraq to necessarily make money. These organizations have a ready pool of customers in war zones all over the world, from the Philipines, Columbia, and the Sudan. I believe it's been said that one third of the world's population is currently at war (not necessarily all of which are combatants, the entire population of the United States could be said to be "at war"), and where there is war there will be war profiteers and merceneries. It's absolutely nothing new, and even the Vatican's Swiss Guard began as an elite mercenary organization.

      August 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sam

    I like sour cream

    August 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. blogger

    bla bla bal

    August 24, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. I Love Humanity

    Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has officially asked Iran to equip and modernize the Lebanese Army, given the problems Beirut is facing.

    Sleiman has asked Iranian officials to consider selling advanced military equipment to the Lebanese Army, reported IRNA.

    The Lebanese president has reiterated that the modernization should take place while keeping in mind Beirut's strategic needs as well as its budget limitations.

    This follows recent deadly confrontation between Lebanese and Israeli forces.

    The exchange of fire left three Lebanese soldiers and one Israeli military officer dead.

    After the incident, US officials announced that they would freeze 100 million dollars in military aid destined for Beirut.

    Visit for more:

    August 25, 2010 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. Truth Seeker

    The balance of power is shifting,

    August 27, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. cder

    We should take our troops out SLOWLY! I want our men back home but if we withdrawl too quickly then the neighbooring areas will simply come in and more lives will be lost!

    August 27, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |