US troop presence in Afghanistan would be modest: Pentagon
Washington: The presence of US troops in Afghanistan after the 2014 pullout would be "modest", Pentagon said today, adding no final decision has been taken on the exact number of troops to be present in the war-torn nation.
"My instinct that their (Afghan security forces) development is moving at a pace and their acceptance of responsibility is moving at a pace that our numbers after '14 can be modest," General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the CNN in a joint appearance with the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta.
The most important thing that's happened is that the Afghan army has become operational, Panetta said.
"They have developed their ability to provide security. We couldn't make a transition in the areas that need add transition, which involves over 75 per cent of the Afghan population right now is in under Afghan control and under Afghan security," he said.
Responding to a question, Dempsey said that "zero option" meaning no US troops has never been an option for them.
"I've never heard anyone suggest -- no one has ever suggested zero to me. And I think that the ultimate number will be based on the mission and how deeply we want to be involved with their continued development, and also what they want. I mean, literally what the sovereign nation of Afghanistan wants," he said.
Any decision on the troop numbers after 2014, would be based on three things in equilibrium, he said.
"The campaign objectives which are very laid out in Chicago and Lisbon with our NATO allies. Retrograde, we have got a pretty significant challenge of getting ourselves out of Afghanistan in terms of equipment and force protection. And we'll keep those three things in equilibrium," Dempsey said.
He praised the progress made by the Afghan National Security Forces, which he said is increasingly taking the responsibility of the country's security.
"My feel for it now is that the missions that we've accepted post '14 with the Afghan government and our NATO allies, which largely relate to the counter-terror mission, continuing to keep pressure on transnational global terrorism as well as the continued development of the Afghan security forces," Dempsey said.