U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzi have agreed on a plan to shift the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan to a support role this spring, which is a few months earlier than expected.
Obama said after that, U.S. troops would focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces. He said it would be a “historic moment.”
He commented during a joint news conference with Karzai, on Friday, after hosting talks with the Afghan leader on the future role of the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Currently, there are about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with several thousand other international soldiers. International forces are expected end to combat operations to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.
The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 remains uncertain. Mr. Obama said Friday that any plan would have to include an immunity agreement under which U.S. troops were not subjected to Afghan law.
The president also said he is still getting recommendations on a drawdown from the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.
Karzai said that he and Obama also discussed a plan for direct talks with Taliban. The Afghan leader said negotiations between Afghan peace representatives and the Taliban are expected to take place at a Taliban office in Qatar.
On Thursday, Karzai met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Panetta told Karzai that the U.S. and Afghanistan have come a long way toward making sure Afghanistan will never again become a safe haven for terrorism.
Panetta said more than 10 years of the U.S.-led war against al Qaeda and its allies, the Taliban have paved the way for Afghanistan to stand on its own.
Karzai expressed appreciation for the years of support from the U.S. and Afghanistan’s other allies.
Karzai will wrap up his events in Washington Friday evening with a speech at Georgetown University.
NATO Countries With Most Troops in Afghanistan (as of July 17, 2012)
- United States 90,000
- Britain 9,500
- Italy 3,816
- France 3,308
- Poland 2,457
- Turkey 1,327
- Afghan 344,108 (as of March 2012)
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.