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No decision on troop numbers in Afghanistan post 2014: US

Washington, Nov 27, 2012, (PTI) :
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The Obama Administration today said that no decision had been taken on the US troop numbers in Afghanistan following the scheduled drawdown of 2014, dismissing media reports that suggested otherwise.

Media reports yesterday had claimed that US may keep a combat force of around 10,000 in Afghanistan, including a small counter-terrorism force after 2014 as a contingency against re-emergence of the al-Qaeda.

The White House along with the Pentagon reiterated that the security transition would go ahead as per the schedule and would be completed by 2014.

"He (Obama) has not (decided). He will review options for both...we will entertain a continued presence in Afghanistan that would focus on counter-terrorism operations and training of Afghan forces," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, told reporters.

Carney said the US President has not reviewed options and has not made any decisions on drawdown of troops in the next two years.

The pace of that draw down is a decision that Obama will be making in coming weeks and months, he said.

Obama, he said, will evaluate proposals from the Pentagon and elsewhere on what the US might negotiate with the Afghan government on a future presence in the war-torn country after they fulfil their and NATO's commitment to end the war in 2014.

"That commitment and that presence would be very limited in scope, as we've talked about --focused on counter terrorism operations and training of Afghan forces," Carney said.

The Pentagon also said that no decision has been taken on the presence of US troops inside Afghanistan either before 2014 or post 2014, when all US troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country, and categorically denied reports in this regard.

"It is entirely premature to speculate on the troop numbers in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014 or beyond," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters.

Little, categorically denied reports appearing in the American media that the United States had taken a decision to have 10,000 troops stationed in the Afghanistan post 2014.

Any such decision, he said, would be taken by the US President, in consultations with his national security team, the Afghan Government and its international partners, he said.

In September, the US completed the withdrawal of surge-level troops from the country, Little said, adding that the US would soon begin considering further withdrawal of troops from the country which would include planning the presence of US civilian and military presence in Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to hold a teleconference with head of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General John Allen today during which these issues would be discussed.

"The (US) President would make these decisions in the near future based on what is in our national interest," Little said, adding that the decision would be taken in consultations with the Afghan Government and its international partners.

"When it comes to post 2014 troop levels, we have asked for options to be considered...those options would be considered relatively soon," he said.

"As we have made clear on several occasions, any US presence would only be at the invitation of the Afghan Government and aimed at training the Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda," he added.

"On the question of further drawdown of 2013, the military will soon present options for the next steps of drawing down.

There are no discussions at this point particular options for 2013 at this stage. As the President made clear in June 2011, our forces would continue to come home at a steady pace and transition to the Afghan-lead security," the Pentagon Press Secretary said.

Responding to media reports that some 10,000 troops would be stationed in Afghanistan post-2014, he said that that would be "highly speculative" and "inappropriate" as no decision has been taken in this regard.

In the "next several weeks" US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to take such a decision and the process will play out, he said.

"The Secretary (of Defence) has not made a recommendation yet to the White House," he added.

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