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Decision on post-2014 force size soon: Obama

Decision on post-2014 force size soon: Obama

May 25, 2014 - 21:26

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): On a secret trip to Afghanistaninfo-icon, US President Barack Obama landed at the Bagram Airbase in central Parwan province on Sunday evening, officials said.

A well-placed source confirmed to Pajhwok Afghan News Obama’s unannounced arrival at the main American military base in Bagram, where he met US troops.

“Importantly, the visiting leader has no plan to meet President Hamid Karzai. He will fly out of Afghanistan after a few hours,” said one security official, who did not want to be named.

On the base, the president was briefed on NATOinfo-icon drawdown plans. During his fourth visit to the conflict-torn country, he visited the US soldiers wounded in the longest war in America’s history

His administration would announce soon the number of US troops who would stay in Afghanistan after 2014, Obama said at a briefing by military commanders. Talks on the US footprint in the country represented one of the objectives behind his trip, he added.

Obama made clear the US could plan to keep a limited military presence in the country to protect the gains made over the past 12 years only when the bilateral security pact was inked.

America's combat mission would come to a close at the end of 2014 and the war would come to a responsible conclusion, he announced, showering praise on troops.

"Of all the honors I have as serving as president, nothing matches serving as your commander in chief. But I’m also here representing 300 million Americans who say thank you as well."

The US has lost nearly at least 2,200 service members to the Afghan war. Currently, more than 32,500 US soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan.

A top presidential aide said that no decision had been made on the number of US troops in Afghanistan post 2014. "He has not made the decision yet. He has been consulting with his national security team. 

"We had a NSC (National Security Council) meeting on this topic recently,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters travelling with the US president.

Rhodes added the US would be requiring a bilateral security agreement (BSA) to be signed before taking a call on a troop presence post 2014. "Of course we still need a BSA to have troops here post-2014, although, again, both candidates have expressed their support for such a BSA..."

He said the White House recently had discussion on a range of options for the type of presence that US would maintain in Afghanistan after 2014.  "I think the important principles there are we’re focused on missions, and the principal missions..."

The main mission for the US is how it can help the Afghan security forces sustain their own capability to be in the lead in addition to a counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan, in South Asia, in cooperation with Pakistaninfo-icon

Obama met US Ambassador James Cunningham and ISAFinfo-icon Commander Gen. Joseph F. Dumford Jr to get a battlefield update and to discuss post-war plans -- troop levels beyond this year.

Obama was accompanied by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, NSC Director for Afghanistan Jeff Eggers, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and counselor John Podesta, who has a son serving in Afghanistan.

"There are no meetings scheduled with either President Hamid Karzai or the two candidates in the run-off elections, Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani," Rhodes said, adding the White House wanted to make the trip purely focused on the troops and not to get involved in Afghan politics.



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