US Draws Plans For Up to 9,000 Troops in Afghanistan
 
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The US Defence Department has prepared plans for a smaller presence in Afghanistan after 2014, with three scenarios calling for leaving roughly 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 US troops in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Those troops would launch strikes against militants and continue training the Afghan army and police, who will be responsible for national security.

The US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the slimmed-down force would focus on preventing Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the 1996-2001 Taliban government, from regaining a foothold in Afghanistan.

General John Allen, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, had earlier suggested leaving 6,000 to 15,000 US troops, the Journal pointed out.

It comes as President Hamid Karzai prepares to visit Washington this week to discuss the US security presence after 2014 and security agreement between the two countries.

Karzai's agenda will focus on five major topics, according to Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul, who was summoned to parliament last week.

The bilateral security agreement, currently being negotiated by Afghan and US diplomats; the number of US troops to remain in Afghanistan post-2014, the number of their bases and locations; peace talks; aid mechanisms in the so-called Decade of Transformation between 2014 and 2024; and equipping the Afghan army and air force will be the five main items on his agenda, Rasoul said.

The United States and its allies are currently negotiating future troop commitments to Afghanistan on the basis of a formula that calls for US troops to make up two-thirds of any follow-on force, The Journal said late Friday.

According to the paper, with a smaller US troop presence, the State Department would also be forced to cut plans for large-scale diplomatic outposts across Afghanistan.

There are around 66,000 US troops and 37,000 troops of other nations fighting insurgents in Afghanistan.

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