White House pressure limits troop numbers to 9,000

The U.S. Defence Department has prepared plans for a smaller presence in Afghanistan after the White House insisted on examining the option of leaving fewer troops in the country after 2014 than was initially proposed, The Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday.

The newspaper said the plans now prepared by the Pentagon call for leaving roughly 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Those troops would launch strikes against militants and continue training the Afghan army and police, who will be responsible for national security more than a decade after a U.S.-led alliance ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said the slimmed-down force would focus on preventing al-Qaeda, sheltered by the 1996-2001 Taliban government, from regaining a foothold in the war-shattered nation.

General John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had earlier suggested leaving 6,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops, The Journal pointed out.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepares to visit Washington next week to discuss the U.S. security presence after 2014. — AFP