‘US troops could stay in Afghan past 2014’

The envoy, Ryan Crocker said that if the Afghan govt wanted US troops to stay longer, the withdrawal could be slowed.

Last Updated: Dec 12, 2011, 00:32 AM IST

Washington: American combat troops could
stay in war-torn Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline set by
President Barack Obama for their pullout if Kabul sought
delaying their withdrawal, the US Ambassador has said.

The ambassador, Ryan Crocker said that if the Afghan
government wanted American troops to stay longer, the
withdrawal could be slowed.

"They would have to ask for it," he said. "I could
certainly see us saying, `Yeah, makes sense.` "

He emphasised, however, that no such decision had been
made, the New York Times reported.

White House officials said that Crocker`s comments were
consistent with its previously stated position.

"The president never excluded the possibility that there
would be some US forces here, but he stressed that security
would be under Afghan lead by 2014," said the embassy
spokeswoman, Eileen O`Connor. "The president has always spoken
of a responsible winding down of the efforts here, so talk of
the possibility of some troops still being here post-2014 is
not a change in policy."

But Crocker`s comments were an explicit acknowledgment
that the post-2014 forces may include combat troops, not just
the trainers and advisers who had been publicly mentioned
before, the Times pointed out.

His comments came as the administration was engaged in
discussions with the Afghan government on arrangements after
2014.

At a conference in Bonn, Germany, last week, Afghan
President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials called for
political and military support for at least another decade.

In June, Obama announced that American troop withdrawals
would begin the following month, with 10,000 of the roughly
101,000 American troops then in the country to leave by
December 31, and an additional 23,000 to follow by the summer
of 2012.

"We are on a timeline, as you know," Crocker said. "Ten
thousand out by the end of the year, that is being met." With
the additional 23,000 by September 2012, he added, "that
basically recovers the surge" ? the reinforcements Obama
ordered two years ago.

"Beyond that, there are no decisions," he said, adding,
"And as far as I`m aware, there are no formal recommendations
yet."

Asked if that meant that the United States would not
necessarily withdraw all combat troops by 2014, Crocker said,
"I don`t know what we`re going to be doing in 2014."

PTI