US military leader plays down 'zero option' for troop levels in Afghanistan
Source: The Guardian (UK)
The top US military officer said on Saturday he was confident that enough American troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to accomplish the three-part mission agreed to by allies at last year's Nato summit in Chicago.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not know whether President Barack Obama would announce the size of the post-2014 US force for Afghanistan during his upcoming State of the Union address.
But he said an announcement on the management of forces in 2013 "has to come fairly soon, simply because we're two months in" the year. Officials have said a decision on the size of the post-2014 U.S. force would be made before any announcement of the speed of the 2013 drawdown.
Afghan forces are expected to take over the lead role for security in Afghanistan this spring. The international force plans to hand over full responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014, with most international combat forces being withdrawn.