Future Afghan troop level not yet decided

Nov. 27, 2012 at 1:53 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beyond 2014 are yet to be decided, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Speaking to reporters, Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had not yet sent his recommendation to the White House on how many U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014, the Defense Department said on its website.

"It's entirely premature to speculate on troop numbers in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014 or beyond," he said. "In September, we completed the full withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops, and we will soon begin considering how we move forward on further troop level adjustments which will include planning for our post-2014 military and civilian presence in Afghanistan."

Panetta planned to discuss a "range of matters on Afghanistan" Tuesday with Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"As we've made clear on several occasions, any U.S. presence would only be at the invitation of the Afghan government, and aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaida," Little said, adding President Barack Obama would be make the final decision based on national interest.

Obama "receives options from our military leaders on the situation on the ground, and considers the recommendations with his national security team, including [Panetta], in a consultation with the Afghan government and our international partners," Little said.

U.S. and NATO forces are scheduled to end their combat operations in Afghanistan and hand over the security of the country to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

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