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Pentagon Report Foresees Need for Afghan Support Beyond 2014

A new Pentagon report to the U.S. Congress says substantial long-term foreign military assistance will be required to support Afghan security forces once NATO combat troops leave the country next year.

In a twice-yearly report on war progress, top U.S. military officials say significantly more security training and foreign financial aid will be required to ensure that the Kabul government can hold off the ongoing Taliban insurgency.

Tuesday's report comes as U.S. negotiations with the Afghan government remain stalled on a security agreement that could extend U.S. presence beyond the December 2014 expiration of the NATO mandate. Those talks began last year, but authorities have acknowledged making little recent progress.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai suspended the talks last month over a dispute involving the venue for possible peace talks with the Taliban, and U.S.-Afghan relations have cooled since then. No date has been announced for more talks.

Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Lavoy, speaking Tuesday, told reporters the United States would be forced to withdraw all troops, if Washington and Kabul can not reach agreement on legal guarantees for U.S. troops to stay.

The report acknowledges the Afghan government's increasing ability to deliver basic goods and services in parts of the country. But it also warns that the Kabul government has so far failed to reduce corruption or to effectively extend its reach into many rural areas of the country.

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