U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai were to chart the course for the war’s end on Friday during a meeting at the White House to discuss the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan and the 66,000 American troops there.
The two leaders planned a joint news conference on Friday afternoon, but White House officials said Mr. Obama will not announce any decisions on the next phase of troop withdrawals or whether any U.S. forces will stay behind in Afghanistan after the war formally ends in 2014.
U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have proposed keeping 6,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops after 2014 to continuing pursuing terrorists and training Afghan security forces.Beyond troop levels, Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai were also expected to discuss preparations for next year’s Afghan elections and the prospects for advancing Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.
After Mr. Karzai met Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, the Pentagon chief offered an upbeat assessment of the war’s progress.
“After a long and difficult path, we finally are, I believe, at the last chapter of establishing an Afghanistan, a sovereign Afghanistan, that can govern and secure itself for the future,” said Mr. Panetta.
Mr. Panetta told a news conference that he and Mr. Karzai had laid the groundwork for the Afghan leader’s White House meeting. “We made very good progress on, you know, the kind of equipment that we would try to make available to them,” to enable the Afghans to not only secure borders but also prevent a Taliban takeover, Mr. Panetta said.