US, Allies at Turning Point in Afghan War: Panetta
 
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The US military commanders in Afghanistan believe the US and its allies have "turned the tide" after 11 years of war, said US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

In his speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Panetta said the international military coalition has reversed a five-year trend of growing violence.

He said Afghan forces are on track to take the lead for securing the entire country next year.

His comments come after Panetta spent two days in Afghanistan last week, consulting with top US commanders and Afghan officials.about troop withdrawal plans

He announced during his visit that President Hamid Karzai will come to Washington next month to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the way ahead.

At a news conference with visiting Panetta in Kabul, President Karzai said that he and Obama will discuss the number of US troops that will remain after the Western combat mission ends in December 2014.

Karzai said he understands that immunity from Afghan laws for those remaining Americans is of "immense importance" to Washington, but he added that he has his own priorities in negotiating a postwar US role.

There are around 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan, fighting insurgents.

The remaining troops are to be slowly withdrawn after Afghan forces take full security responsibilities by the end of 2014.

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