Washington: The Pentagon and the White House will make a final decision within weeks on how many American troops will remain in Afghanistan as a residual force after the final combat troops leave at the end of 2014, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
Panetta said that top NATO commander Gen. John Allen had recently submitted various options for the final stage of the U.S. presence there,a nd the Pentagon and White House would have to review the recommendations before deciding on a final plan.
"My hope is that we``ll be able to complete this process in the next few weeks ... I``m confident that we``ll be able to get to the right number that we``re going to need for the post-2014 enduring presence," CNN quoted Panetta, as saying.
According to the report, Panetta said that various options would depend on the various types of missions U.S. forces that would take part in after the 2014 withdrawal. Its likely that the remaining U.S. forces will participate in follow-on training of Afghan security forces, while a smaller number will remain to conduct a counterterrorism mission against al Qaeda.
"All of those (options) are being carefully reviewed," Panetta said.
Still to be decided by the administration is the timetable and the pace at which U.S. troops will be coming out of Afghanistan over the next two years, the report said.
There are about 67,000 U.S. troops currently inside Afghanistan, it added.