Pentagon Official: Another Iraq, Afghanistan Unlikely 'Any Time Soon'

Deputy Defense Secretary says Pentagon is not "abandoning" counterinsurgency expertise despite Army, Marine cuts.

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U.S. soldiers
U.S. soldiers with the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force are seen during a foot patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The United States is unlikely to engage in another lengthy ground operation like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Obama administration and Pentagon officials "are not abandoning" the ability to do counterinsurgency operations, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a forum in Washington. But officials are shedding some of the force structure—meaning people—that was added to the Army and Marines after the 9/11 attacks that was used to wage the counterinsurgency campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

[See a collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

"No one wants to get into another Iraq or Afghanistan any time soon," Carter says. And if Washington did find itself in that kind of scenario, "we would mobilize the reserves," while the active-duty force is expanded back to peak post-9/11 levels.

The Obama administration wants to shrink the Army over the next few years from 570,000 to around 482,000, and the Marines from 202,000 to 175,000 Leathernecks.

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter.

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