U.S. Offers Options for Troops in Afghanistan After 2014

The U.S. has presented a range of options for the number of U.S. and allied forces to be left in Afghanistan after 2014, when the bulk of the current force withdraws, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

The Pentagon denied a report that the U.S. planned to keep 8,000-12,000 troops in Afghanistan as of 2015.

“A range of 8,000-12,000 troops was discussed as the possible size of the overall NATO mission, not the U.S. contribution,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said today in statement after a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. President Barack Obama “is still reviewing options and has not made a decision about the size of a possible U.S. presence after 2014.”

The U.S. currently provides about 66,000 of 100,000 allied troops in Afghanistan. While that share suggests a future U.S. force of 5,280 to 7,920 troops, the total may be more because countries such as France and Bulgaria have said they intend to withdraw all of their troops in coming months.

NATO defense ministers showed “good receptivity” to the U.S. proposal, Panetta told reporters after the meeting.

“We’ll maintain an enduring presence to be able to fulfill two key missions: train, assist and support the Afghan army and in addition conduct counterterrorism activity to make sure that al-Qaeda and its affiliates never again are able to establish a safe haven,” Panetta said.

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