By Dylan Welch and Jessica Donati
KABUL - Afghanistan's security will remain dependent on international troops for many years after most foreign combat forces leave by the end of 2014, the U.S. commander of the NATO-led force in the South Asian country said. With the formal security handover to Afghans approaching, intense debate is under way about how many troops the United States and its mainly NATO allies should leave to conduct training, support and counter-terrorism operations.
The White House favors about 7,000 U.S. troops, but some in the U.S. military would prefer two or three times as many. However many are left behind, they will play a vital role in supporting the Afghan National Security Forces. ANSF numbers have been projected at 352,000 by the time they take over, although they have not reached that level yet, according to some official U.S. estimates.
U.S. General Joseph Dunford, the last commander of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, would not be drawn on how many he thought should remain, referring instead to "sustainability."