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US calls 2014 'reasonable goal' for Afghan strategy

2010-11-22 08:58

WASHINGTON - A top US military official said on Sunday that it is a "reasonable goal" to turn over security responsibilities to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

"I'm very encouraged by what happened in Lisbon over the weekend. NATO, 28 nations who are member nations in addition to another 20 nations who contribute troops, all affirmed 2014 for the time that we turn over security responsibilities to the Afghan security forces," Admiral Mike Mullen, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

"We think that's a reasonable goal," he said. "Obviously, there is a lot between now and then."

Under an agreement reached at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO member countries decided to start handing over control to the Afghan security forces from the beginning of 2011 and complete the transition by the end of 2014.

Asked whether that means US combat forces will no longer be in Afghanistan after 2014, the chairman said: "We will still have forces to ... train and assist. But in terms of combat forces, that's certainly the plan at this point."

Mullen likened the Afghan strategy to the case in Iraq, where there are still 50,000 US troops, although combat forces had been brought out. But he declined to speculate on how many troops would be left in terms of Afghanistan.

"Very difficult to know ... It's just too far off," he said. " Clearly we have an expectation that it will be dramatically reduced from where it is now. We have almost 100,000 troops there today. But in terms of specifics, it's just too soon to tell."

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