The top U.S. military officer said he supports keeping 8,000 to 12,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan after most allied forces leave the country at the end of 2014.
“I find that to be a reasonable target,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. The Obama administration hasn’t yet specified how many U.S. troops it wants to keep in Afghanistan after most of them depart.
In February, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in Brussels the possibility of maintaining a combined allied presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops.
Today, Dempsey called that “a reasonable target” when asked whether it’s important for the administration to announce planned U.S. troop levels as it seeks to negotiate an agreement with the Afghan government for a continuing American presence to provide training and conduct counterterror operations.
Some U.S. military officials and members of Congress have publicly said that 13,600 American troops and 7,000 from other countries will be necessary.
Among those who have been pressing for that big a force are Marine General James Mattis, who retired last month as head of the U.S. Central Command, and Marine General Joseph Dunford, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
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