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WH: 68K U.S. troops in Afghanistan in '13

  |   March 22, 2012 at 5:20 PM
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, March 22 (UPI) -- A White House spokesman said Thursday the United States will have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan next year after surge forces withdraw.

Press secretary Jay Carney spoke to reporters on Air Force One covering President Obama's trip to Columbus, Ohio.

Asked about the testimony of Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, before a Senate panel, Carney confirmed the general's figure.

"What General Allen was referring to is that 68,000 troops which will remain after the withdrawal of the surge forces is a good number going into the period of the post-surge-withdrawal period," Carney said. "But the president's position has not changed, and that position is that we will steadily draw down U.S. troops as we continue to transition security lead to Afghan security forces as they continue to be trained and their numbers increase."

Allen testified Afghan security forces are "better than we thought they would be" and could lead to a further reduction in U.S. troops.

"If part of the outcome of my evaluation is that there is a reduced requirement for U.S. or ISAF combat power, I'll make that part of my recommendation," Allen testified.

Carney said the president is still "focused on implementing a strategy that has as its core objective the goal of disrupting and dismantling and ultimately defeating al-Qaida."

He added there will be a full transition to Afghan troops by the end 2014, but the announcement of any more troop withdrawals will come only after surge troops are withdrawn.

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