MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is considering a plan to keep fewer than 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after the pullout expected at the end of this year, Reuters reported Tuesday citing US government sources.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Eileen O'Connor told RIA Novosti last week that 10,000 US troops and 2,000 international troops will remain in Afghanistan when the international combat mission there ends.
The Pentagon has proposed leaving 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, the minimum number it says are needed to train Afghan troops.
The issue of the stay of US troops in Afghanistan after the pullout has dominated Washington’s relations with Kabul in recent months.
The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 US troops, could be the result of reluctance by current Afghan leader Hamid Karzai to work out a security deal on the status of US troops after the military stage of the operation ends.
Things may change after the arrival of new Afghan authorities chosen in a general election earlier this month with results to be announced on Thursday. Karzai was ineligible to run due to term limits.
According to Reuters, since the Afghan election, senior US officials have resumed talks on how many US troops would remain in the country.
There are currently 33,000 US troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, the report said.