Gen.: U.S. to remain in Afghanistan a "long time"

The American flag flies at half mast to remember the victims of 9/11 at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kuschamond on Sept. 11, 2011. Ceremonies were held in tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks at bases across Afghanistan with a similar event at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, where troops are stuck in a seemingly un-winnable war against a Taliban guerrilla movement few Americans understand.Complete coverage: 9/11 anniversary

Ten years ago this week, U.S. forces went to war in Afghanistan to root out the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11, and to topple the Taliban government that gave them safe haven.

That's been done, but Taliban insurgents - using Pakistan as a base - fight on, and the top U.S. general in Afghanistan says that the U.S. troops will remain there for a "long time," likely far beyond a planned 2014 handover of security responsiblity.

In a CBS News poll out tonight, we asked Americans if the war has been mostly a success: 39 percent said yes, but 50 percent said no. Asked whether U.S. forces should be decreased, 62 percent said yes.

There are 90,000 American troops in Afghanistan, and President Obama plans to withdraw about one-third by next summer.

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A NATO conference in Lisbon set 2014 as the date the U.S. will hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government.

However, that might not be the end of it.


In an interview for "60 minutes," CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley sat down in Kabul with the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, and asked about the plan.

"Well, the plan is to win. The plan is to be successful. And so, while some folks might hear that we're departing in 2014 as a result of the Lisbon Conference and the process of transition, we're actually going to be here for a long time," Allen said.

The number of troops that will remain is yet to be determined, Allen said, adding that any remaining troops will have to come as part of an agreement with the Afghans.

"We're talking about forces that will provide an advisory capacity. And we may even have some form of counter-terrorist force here to continue the process of developing the Afghan's counter-terrorism capabilities, but, if necessary, respond ourselves," Allen said.

Ultimately, the message Allen says is important is simple: Afghanistan is not going to be abandoned.


  • Scott Pelley
    Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"