News - Afghanistan
The US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not yet decided on how he will advise the president about US troop numbers in Afghanistan after 2014, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said on Monday, dismissing reports that he was looking at keeping a force of 10,000 in place.
"It's entirely premature to speculate on troop numbers in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014 or beyond," Little 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," he said, adding that any US presence will only be at the invitation of the Afghan government, and aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting "the remnants of Al Qaeda".
Little said that Panetta will speak on Tuesday with the top US commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen to discuss a "range of matters on Afghanistan."
His statements come after the Wall Street Journal reported that America is aiming to keep around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations end in 2014.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US official saying that the plan was in line with recommendations presented by Allen who has proposed a force of between 6,000 and 15,000 US troops.
About 67,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan alongside 37,000 other foreign coalition troops and 337,000 Afghan soldiers and police that make up the Afghan National Security Forces.