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    US to Support 352,000 Strong Afghan Security Force

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    The US Defense Department will seek funding to support 352,000 Afghan security forces until 2017 in order to ensure the security gains are not lost, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said after meeting with Afghan leaders at Camp David.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Maintaining Afghan security forces at the 350,000 level has cost about $4 billion per year.

    “The Defense Department intends to seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain end strength of 352,000 personnel through 2017,” Carter stated on Monday after a day of talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah.

    Carter explained the decision to support Afghan troop levels came after recommendations from Afghan and coalition military commanders to ensure security is maintained after the US and NATO combat mission ended last December.

    On their trip to the United States, Ghani and Abdullah will also meet with other senior US officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry.

    US President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with the two Afghan leaders at the White House on March 24.

    The Afghan visit comes nearly three months after the US-led NATO mission ended combat operations in Afghanistan after 14 years in the war-torn country.

    The US military maintains some 10,000 troops in Afghanistan dedicated to train Afghan security forces, as well as engaging in limited counterterrorism operations in a new mission called Resolute Support.

    US military presence in Afghanistan is expected to be cut to 5,500 troops by the middle of 2015 and be brought down to an embassy presence by the end of 2016.


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