In perhaps the least surprising news story of 2011, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, said that U.S. troops would stay in that country beyond the White House's 2014 withdrawal deadline if the Afghan government asked them to.
U.S. embassy spokeswoman Eileen O'Connor said Crocker's comment was consistent with President Barack Obama's previous statements. "[T]he possibility of some troops still being here post-2014 is not a change in policy." However, Crocker's comments on December 10 referred to combat troops, a topic Obama has not previously acknowledged.
Crocker said 10,000 troops would be pulled out by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 by September 2012. However, that simply reduces the number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan back down to the number before Obama's 2009 "surge". Crocker said that beyond 2012, "there are no decisions. I don't know what we're going to be doing in 2014."
The reduced number of troops has no effect on the ever-growing shadow army of military contractors. In August 2010, the Department of Defense stated there were roughly 112,000 contractors in Afghanistan. That number has likely increased in the last year.
In Canada, Steven Harper recently pledged $100 million of taxpayer money to Afghanistan each year for the next three years. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird could not say how much money would be sent to Afghanistan after 2014.
Canadian forces also view the 2014 deadline as written in pencil. Col. Peter Dawe, deputy commander of the Canadian contribution to the NATO training mission, told Postmedia News in August 2011, "You can't view 2014 as an absolute deadline."