U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon and the White House are discussing what presence the U.S. military will have in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.
Panetta told reporters Monday aboard a military aircraft traveling to Australia that the head of the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has presented plans to support counter-terrorism and training for Afghan forces.
“General Allen has worked on several options that we are now reviewing and working with the White House on. And my hope is that we'll be able to complete this process within the next few weeks," said Panetta. "I'm confident that we're going to be able to get to the right number that we're going to need for the post-2014 presence.”
The United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement in May outlining the future relationship between the two countries. It does not specify any specific troop presence, but pledges American aid for Afghanistan for at least a decade after international combat troops leave the country.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrived in Afghanistan Monday to review the coalition's ongoing transfer of security control to the Afghan forces.
He said Germany will decide within a week on the next steps in the drawdown of its forces from Afghanistan. Germany has about 4,900 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest force in the coalition.