Afghan President Hamid Karzai holds a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 10 at the State Department in Washington. Karzai is set to meet Jan. 11 with President Barack Obama. (Jewel Samad / AFP)
WASHINGTON —President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, discussed Jan. 11 what they said was a “possible” U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
In a joint statement issued after a meeting in Washington, the pair said the countries were negotiating a bilateral security agreement to define how any U.S. force would continue to support Afghan troops beyond next year. The NATO alliance’s combat mission in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led Western troops are fighting alongside Karzai’s Afghan government forces against Taliban insurgents, is due to come to an end in 2014.
It has long been assumed that some U.S. forces might remain after this date to complete the job of training the Afghan army, but recently there have been louder calls in some quarters of Washington for a full withdrawal.
Issued after the leaders met for more than two hours, the joint U.S.-Afghan statement did not rule this out but said Obama and Karzai had “discussed the possibility of a post-2014 U.S. presence that is sustainable.”
The statement, released by the White House ahead of a news conference, said any force would support “a capable and effective Afghan National Security Force ... that continues to pressure the remnants of al-Qaeda and its affiliates.” “The scope and nature of any possible post-2014 U.S. presence, legal protections for U.S. forces, and security cooperation between the two countries is to be specified in the Bilateral Security Agreement,” it added. “The U.S. reaffirmed that it does not seek permanent bases in Afghanistan.”