US keeping all options on Afghan withdrawal open
Washington: Keeping its cards close to its chest, the US on Thursday said no decision regarding the nature of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has been taken yet, and all options on the issue have been kept open.
"We have said, I think, from the start that no option is entirely off the table. It'll depend on the conditions," said General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, within days of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes saying that a complete withdrawal was also one of the options.
"It'll depend on conditions. What's the mission? What's the requirement to protect the force while it's accomplishing that mission and over what period of time?" he said.
Dempsey was addressing a joint news conference with the outgoing Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
Both Panetta and Dempsey said they have made their presentation to the national security team in this regard, but no such assessment has been presented before President Barack Obama, who is to take a final decision over the issue.
"All I can tell you is that we have presented options to the White House. Ultimately, we'll have the opportunity to present those options to the President," Panetta said.
Early this week, Rhodes had said a 'Zero Option' seeing complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in the post 2014 scenario was also on the table.
The visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai is believed to have strongly opposed this idea and made this point to both Panetta and Dempsey, besides Rhodes himself.
However, the two top Pentagon leaders did not reveal details of the view point presented by Karzai.