NORTH CAROLINA - As 1,000 North Carolina troops deploy to Afghanistan this week, the White House is discussing a plan to withdraw all troops completely by next year.
Sailors and marines will deploy from Camp Lejeune at the Cherry Point Air Station. They have been deploying in groups since Wednesday and will joint Combat Logistics Regiment 2 while in Afghanistan. That unit will advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces.
This deployment comes the same week the White House has confirmed it is seriously considering withdrawing all troops within the year.
Elon University political science assistant professor Jason Husser joined WFMY News 2 at the Guilford County Veterans Memorial Thursday. He said of the seemingly coincidental developments, "It does seem like a paradox. On one hand, the President is saying we may totally withdraw troops. On the other hand he's calling them up to go forward. It really makes sense though that the time that these troops will be rotated out is still within the timetable that they're talking about potentially withdrawing."
The White House proposal of total troop removal would mean major acceleration to the plan that's already in place-to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan from 63,000 to 34,000 by next year. White house officials have indicated the reason behind this consideration is recent tension in negotiations with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Husser said, "The worry is that if the U.S. were to back out too quickly that Afghanistan could, in some way, have some regime change where the U.S. has left out of the region, and we lose some of the influence we've gained over the year."
Pentagon Spokesperson George Little said, "I wouldn't say that we are frustrated. We continue to work through issues. We realize there are going to be points of contention from time to time."
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, "We've had disagreements in the past, and we'll have them in the future, there's no question. But the core agreement here is on a future in Afghanistan that is stable and Democratic and secure."
White House officials said the President has not spoken with the Afghan president since Karzai accused the U.S. of trying to negotiate a separate peace deal with the Taliban.
Husser explained, "The Afghan government and the Taliban have been enemies for quite a long time. They've been killing each other, so to say you need to sit down at the table with these folks to try to get along and make peace is really a difficult thing to do, but the U.S. government seems to think this is important for the long-term interest of Afghanistan."
Husser said total troop withdrawal is not an ideal situation and "isn't something anybody really wants." But, he said, "It's better than giving up all together, and so this is a very expensive, credible threat that the United States is issuing to the Afghan government."
Within the next few weeks, Husser speculated the U.S. will see "heightened rhetoric" and that things will happen "pretty quickly." He said, "If the U.S. wants to back out, it needs to make a decision quick."
The option of total troop withdrawal has been mentioned among White House and Pentagon officials since January but never before this week did it become a serious consideration. The White House has insisted no final decisions have been made in terms of troops withdrawal.
Marine Corporal Jessie Fletcher, from Winston-Salem, served in Afghanistan until losing his legs and several fingers to an IED detonation in 2011. He returned home three months later. Due to his current military standing, he could not discuss his thoughts or speculation on the potential total troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. He did talk with WFMY News 2 Thursday about the process of troops' homecomings.
He said upon his coming home, family support was extremely important. "If I could say anything to the young men and women that are deploying soon, we have the strongest team-and it's America, hands down-pushing for you every day. So if you have to deploy, don't worry-you have all the support you need here."
Fletcher has accomplished feats others might have deemed impossible. Just a few weeks ago, WFMY News 2 was with him when he learned to fly a plane. "I'm just another man making my way through life, and I think having the support of my fellow Americans, especially my fellow service members, has been what's really been keeping me moving forward."
Thursday's interview with WFMY News 2 was the first time Fletcher and his fiancée Emily Ball visited the Guilford Veterans Memorial in Country Park. "Some of the young men that came before me-I'm walking in a position where it feels king of humbling. These men fought in Korea, they fought in Vietnam, they fought in World War I and World War II, and it feels I'm only walking in their shadows."
Fletcher has advice to give to his fellow troops still deployed in Afghanistan. "Keep your heads up and do the job. Come home safely, and when you do come home, make sure you look through everything you can use as resources to benefit yourself through the transition out of the military."
Fletcher said anyone who wishes to know more about leaving/returning from the military or transitioning out of the military into civilian lifestyle can visit his website. He and his fiancée have said they enjoy answering others' questions and advice about military deployment of a troop or spouse and the homecoming transition.