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Aboard A Us Military Aircraft (AFP) Nov 12, 2012
President Barack Obama's advisers are weighing how many troops to keep in Afghanistan after 2014 and will make a decision within a "few weeks," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.
The commander of NATO and US troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has submitted a range of recommendations that are being studied by top officials at the White House and the Pentagon, Panetta told reporters aboard his plane.
"General Allen has worked on several options that we are now reviewing and working with the White House on," said Panetta, en route to Australia for a week-long trip to Asia.
"And my hope is that we'll be able to complete this process within the next few weeks."
He added: "I'm confident that we're going be able to get to the right number for the post-2014 enduring presence."
Although Washington has committed to pulling out the bulk of the 68,000 US troops now in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the United States also has promised to keep a follow-on force on the ground under an agreement with Kabul.
But President Barack Obama has yet to say how many troops would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and any future force would require difficult negotiations with the Afghan government to resolve legal issues and access to bases in the country.
Panetta said Allen's list of options for post-2014 looks at how to carry out a mix of missions including counter-terrorism, training and logistical support or "enabling capability."
The recommendations focus on "how you respond to each of those missions," he said.
Once Obama decides how many troops to keep in the country after 2014, Allen is due to issue recommendations on the pace of the planned troop drawdown from the current level of 68,000, officials said.
Allen is expected to submit his advice on the drawdown later this month.
Germany to decide soon on Afghan troop withdrawal pace
De Maiziere told a press conference with his Afghan counterpart Bismullah Khan Mohammadi that the cabinet would agree "within the next week" on troop levels during the drawdown over the next two years.
"First of all the redeployment of our troops until the end of 2014 will be reliable, sufficient and sustainable," said De Maiziere, who was on his 10th visit to the country as defence minister.
"In Germany we will make a decision within the next week."
Germany currently has around 4,800 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent under NATO's International Security Assistance Force, behind Britain's 9,500 troops and the more than 90,000 US troops.
It has agreed with its NATO partners to gradually pull combat forces out of the country by the end of 2014 as Afghan troops assume more responsibility for security.
De Maiziere pledged that Germany would work with NATO allies in deciding what military equipment and training capabilities would remain in the country when the troops leave.
A report in October in the Der Spiegel news weekly said that Berlin plans to significantly reduce its troops in the country to "comfortably under 4,000" when the government asks parliament in January for a new mandate for the force.
The government has declined to comment on the figure.
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