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US, Allies Consider Leaving Up to 12,000 Troops in Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gives a thumbs-up to U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ivo Daalder before boarding his aircraft and departing, in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2013.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gives a thumbs-up to U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ivo Daalder before boarding his aircraft and departing, in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2013.
Luis Ramirez
— U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says NATO allies are considering leaving between 8,000 and 12,000 international troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

The force would be left to help Afghans maintain stability in the country after most international troops pull out by the end of 2014.

The U.S. has said it has made no decision yet on how many of its troops will stay. Germany's defense minister offered a differing account, telling reporters Friday that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had mentioned 8,000 to 12,000 U.S. troops would remain.  

Panetta clarifies

At a briefing before boarding his flight back to Washington, Panetta countered those remarks.

“That report is not correct. We did discuss a range of options and what we discussed was a range of options that would be directed to the NATO force overall, which includes both the U.S. force contribution that we would make, plus what other NATO countries would contribute as well,” said Panetta.

U.S. officials say the range of international troops to remain - including Americans - is between 8,000 and 12,000.

Warning given

At the meeting this week, NATO officials voiced concerns about members' shrinking defense budgets and the ability of the alliance to conduct future operations. Panetta, in his parting remarks, had a warning.

"There's no question in the current budget environment, with deep cuts in European defense spending and the kind of political gridlock that we see in the United States now with regards to our own budget, is putting at risk our ability to effectively act together," said Panetta. "As I prepare to step down as secretary of defense, I do fear that the alliance will soon be, if it is not already, stretched too thin."

This meeting was to be the debut of former senator Chuck Hagel as the new U.S. defense secretary. However, U.S. lawmakers have delayed Hagel's confirmation, which required Panetta to put off his retirement and make the trip to NATO headquarters.

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by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
February 23, 2013 12:18 AM
Afghanistan is in Asia, maybe it is time to start getting some of the Asian countries involved in mantaining/helping in stabilizing Afghanistan. At the end of the day NATO needs to depart. No matter how well NATO tries, it is not the face of Asians, nor the spirit of Islam, nor is it in any way related to the culture of the area. A real long term sustainability strategy is still not observable; after 11 yrs, surely something must have been developed, somewhere in NATO?. A few that could be good candidates, if gvmts are willing, Kazaks, Uzbecks, Mongols, Burmese, Viet-Namese, Indonessians, Malasyians, etc... may be able to help in the long term sustainability picture...Afgh will need partners for quite some time, and they may be better accepted if they are from the region, than people coming from Berlin or New York. Karzai also needs to get to work, some day, on these issues... How often has he engaged his neghbours, other than Pak? time for him to work!

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