WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Although an exact figure hasn't been decided, the number of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 pullout will be substantial, officials said.
Speaking Thursday at a news conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said a number of U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after the pullout to participate in training of Afghan forces as well as counter-terrorism efforts.
"The fundamental mission in Afghanistan is to establish an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself and ensure that al-Qaida never again finds a safe haven within Afghanistan from which to conduct attacks on the United States or any other country," Panetta said.
"The goal here is an enduring presence, therefore, that will direct itself towards, you know, three important missions. One is obviously CT, counter-terrorism, to ensure that we continue to go after whatever al-Qaida targets remain in Afghanistan. And although, you know, we clearly have had an impact on their presence in Afghanistan, the fact is that they continue to show up and intelligence continues to indicate that, you know, they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan, as well."
The exact number of troops to stay in Afghanistan is yet to be determined.
The U.S. Senate voted 62-33 Thursday for an accelerated withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. Although the bipartisan vote in favor of a faster pullout is non-binding, it will likely affect talks between President Barack Obama and the military on the withdrawal of the 66,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Khaama Press said.