US Hopes Troops Remain in Afghanistan: Pentagon

News - Afghanistan


US Defence officials on Sunday expressed their hope that US troops remain in Afghanistan after the Nato mission ends in December 2014, although they emphasised that no decision had been made.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey made it clear to reporters on Sunday that the US is not leaving Afghanistan in 2014.

"In Chicago [in May], we also said that we're committed to an enduring presence," Panetta said. "And I believe that the president of the United States is going to do everything possible to implement the Chicago agreements."

"No one has ever suggested zero to me," Dempsey said, referring to the number of postwar troops in Afghanistan, although he stressed that "the decision on numbers hasn't been made yet."

He told reporters the US should expect to see "a long-term partnership/relationship" but declined to respond on whether it will be "thousands" of soldiers.

Ahead of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington last month, some White House officials had said that leaving no troops behind remained an option.

Any US troop presence after 2014 requires an agreement between Kabul and Washington.

A similar agreement was sought some years ago in Iraq for the US to leave a training and advising force there, but the talks stumbled on the matter of American troop immunity from Iraq's judicial system.

There are around 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan helping over 300,000 Afghan security forces fight insurgency.

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