Decision Near on US Troops in Afghanistan After 2014: Panetta

News - Afghanistan


United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday said that Washington will decide in the next few weeks about the presence and purpose of US troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

"My hope is that we'll be able to complete this process in the next few weeks," he told reporters while on a flight to Australia.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to get the right number that we're going to need for the post-2014 enduring presence," he said, adding that the options depend on what purpose the US forces were to serve after the 2014 Nato withdrawal.

He said that top US commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen had already worked on some options and the expectation is for the remaining US forces to train Afghan security forces and a smaller number will conduct counterterrorism missions against Al Qaeda.

"All of those (options) are being carefully reviewed," Panetta said.

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zaher Azimi on Tuesday told TOLOnews that any decisions or plans made by the US will still require approval from the Afghan government.

"The international community is committed to funding and training Afghan forces beyond 2014 but on the matter of their presence, the Afghan government will decide," he said.

Legal analyst Mohammad Tahir Hashimi said that the pressing question of immunity of US troops from Afghan prosecution remains controversial.

"US should come to an agreement that benefits both countries," Hashimi told TOLOnews.

The US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham told TOLOnews in an interview last week that the question should not be framed as whether US troops will have "immunity" for crimes committed but rather whose jurisdiction they will fall under.

The security pact between the two nations is expected to clearly state what the ongoing presence of US forces will be in Afghanistan after 2014. Official negotiations for the pact begin Thursday.

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