The next big challenge in Afghanistan is payroll

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One before departing Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 26, 2014, on a surprise trip to visit US troops.

President Obama said that the U.S. plans to leave about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations end in December. That’s down from the 100,000 U.S. troops that were in the country during the war’s peak.

It may seem like we’re packing up and pulling out. But *Janine Davidson, senior fellow for Defense Policy at the Council for Foreign Relations, says what Afghanistan needs now is a different kind of aid.

“For us to be able to leave Afghanistan... we may be able to take the troops out but they will continue to need economic assistance.”

Davidson says that the Afghanistan security forces are largely capable.

“The issue going forward is their institutional capacity to maintain their forces. Mundane things like payroll and training.”

Even though active duty troop numbers are shrinking, Davidson says the Pentagon should stay prepared.

“You never know what the future holds. Nobody thought we would be at war in Afghanistan in the year 2000. Nobody thought we would be in Iraq... That’s why the military needs to be organized trained and ready. Though not necessarily deployed.”


*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Janine Davidson's first name. The text has been corrected.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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