Thirteen retired U.S. generals and senior diplomats urged President Barack Obama on Friday to maintain the current U.S. troop level in Afghanistan, saying a reduction would undercut the morale of Afghan government forces and bolster the Taliban.

The 13 men oversaw U.S. military operations and policy in Afghanistan during the administrations of Obama and former President George W. Bush. They included retired Army general and CIA director David Petraeus and four other former top commanders of U.S.-led international forces there, as well as five former American ambassadors to Afghanistan.

In an open letter to Obama in The National Interest magazine, they said maintaining the current level of 9,800 U.S. troops would “likely have helpful effects on refugee flows, the confidence of the Taliban, the morale of the Afghan military and Afghan people, the state of the Afghan economy and perhaps even the strategic assessments of some in Pakistan.”

“Conversely, we are convinced that a reduction of our military and financial support over the coming months would negatively affect each of these,” they wrote.

The letter was published days before the current U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, is expected to submit a review of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan.

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