White House open to fully withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after 2014

Rachel Rose Hartman

President Barack Obama will not be making any decisions regarding U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan while Afghan President Hamid Karzai visits with him Friday, the White House stressed during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. But according to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, the door is open to fully withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 2014.

"That would be an option that we would consider," Rhodes responded when asked if a full drawdown of troops after 2014 is possible. He added that the U.S. objective is not to keep troops in Afghanistan, it's making sure there is no safe haven for al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and ensuring that the Afghan government has a sufficient security force.

The president and other U.S. officials in the past have expressed a desire to keep residual troops in Afghanistan, but have not yet indicated potential troop levels.

Rhodes confirmed that Obama and Karzai will have a "working lunch" Friday and then hold a joint press conference. During the conference, he said, Obama will discuss the defeat of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the U.S. troop drawdown and the transition to Afghan leadership in the country.

Karzai is also scheduled to meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his visit this week.