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US Considers Options for Troops in Afghanistan

FILE -U.S. troops listen to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he speaks at Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, December 8, 2013.
U.S. military leaders have proposed two options for Afghanistan after 2014 - leave 10,000 American troops there when the combat mission is over, or pull all of them out.

A source tells VOA the proposal has been discussed at length for some time now. But several news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, say the commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, presented the option to the White House last week.

About 37,500 U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, along with 19,000 forces from other countries in the NATO-led coalition.

Haji Saleh Muhammed Saleh sits on the defense committee in Afghanistan's Lower House. He tells VOA Afghan Service's Ashna TV that if a complete pullout is seriously considered, then the U.S. should help strengthen Afghan security forces.

"It [the plan] should include extensive civilian aid programs and to back the Afghan government. The amount of assistance should be increased so that Afghanistan can stand on its feet," said Saleh.

Some reports also say that if 10,000 troops are left after 2014, they should all be withdrawn by early 2017, when President Barack Obama leaves office.

The Afghan government has not yet signed a Bilateral Security Agreement that would determine the number of American troops to stay in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

The Obama administration says if the agreement is not signed soon, the U.S. may have to pull out its troops because there won't be time to plan for a continued presence.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the winner of that country's presidential election in April should sign the agreement.