US aims to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan post 2014

US troops

A similar demand was a deal breaker in security talks between the US and Iraq in 2011, precipitating a US withdrawal with no residual American force.

A US force of 10,000 to 15,000 would have its limits, said American defence analysts who have advised the military command in Afghanistan. Such a force would have to set aside Afghan training operations to focus on counter-terrorism efforts, they said. Such a narrow focus, though, could hamper a deal with Kabul, which doesn't view al-Qaeda as a direct threat.

Gen Allen wants a gradual drawdown in 2013 and 2014, with reductions tied to key benchmarks including the fighting seasons and the April 2014 Afghan presidential elections, a process he has referred to as "stutter-steps."

Allen's informal recommendation for post-2014 Afghanistan this month was submitted to Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and he chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, said administration officials.

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, acknowledged discussions have begun, but wouldn't specify what Gen Allen has recommended. A decision on the post-2014 troop presence won't be made until after US and Afghan officials complete negotiations on the security agreement.

"At the appropriate time, the president will make decisions about the future scope and size of our presence in Afghanistan based on what is in our national interest and in coordination with our Afghan and (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) partners," Little said.

A spokesman for Gen Allen, Marine Maj David Nevers, said the recommendations are "still in formulation" but would be forwarded to President Barack Obama before year-end.

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