Obama has not yet decided on post-2014 Afghan presence

Olivier Knox

President Barack Obama has not yet settled on how many U.S. troops he would like to see stay in Afghanistan past 2014, a number that must be negotiated with the the Afghan government in Kabul, the White House said Monday. Press secretary Jay Carney also suggested that no troops at all might stay in the war-torn country.

Carney had been asked whether Obama, who repeatedly insisted on the campaign trail that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan "is coming to a close," had decided how many American troops should stay on past the 2014 deadline for withdrawing NATO-led forces. The U.S. and Afghanistan have an agreement that allows for Americans possibly remaining there for counter-terrorism operations and to train Afghan security forces.

"We will entertain a continued presence in Afghanistan that would focus -- if there is a continued presence -- on counterterrorism operations and training of Afghan forces," Carney said.

(Note: "If." The Obama Administration worked to keep a similar residual force in Iraq but decided against it when the government in Baghdad refused to give U.S. troops immunity from local prosecution.)

The Afghan operations would be "very limited in scope," Carney said.

Obama has also not set a pace for military withdrawal between now and then, Carney said, estimating the decision would be made  "in coming weeks and months."

But the president and other U.S. officials in the past have made clear they expect to keep a residual force there. And the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Obama Administration aims to keep some 10,000 troops there.