Nato may keep 12,000 troops in Afghanistan
Nato allies are discussing keeping a training force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after most foreign soldiers leave in 2014, the United States said yesterday.
Nato-led forces are gradually handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts as the bulk of foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.
“A range of 8,000-12,000 troops was discussed as the possible size of the overall Nato mission,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said after a Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
US president Barack Obama has not decided how many American troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014, he said, adding: “The president is still reviewing options.”
German defence minister Thomas de Maizière said earlier that US defence secretary Leon Panetta had told allies in Brussels that the US alone could keep 8,000 to 12,000 troops.
After Mr Panetta denied this, Mr de Maizière issued a statement correcting himself and saying the number referred to the possible overall size of the post-2014 Nato mission, also expected to include European allies and some non-Nato nations. Troop numbers are politically sensitive as voters in many allied countries are weary of the 12-year war with the Taliban.
Previous discussions at the White House focused on a range of options of between 3,000 and 9,000 US troops with commanders most comfortable with the higher-end figures. – (Reuters)