DOD: Obama to decide U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan soon

Pentagon officials expect President Obama to decide “in a relatively short period of time” how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014. Pentagon press secretary George Little gave that timeline in Wednesday’s morning press gaggle, but added that the more eagerly anticipated number — the expected pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan this ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pentagon officials expect President Obama to decide “in a relatively short period of time” how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Pentagon press secretary George Little gave that timeline in Wednesday’s morning press gaggle, but added that the more eagerly anticipated number -- the expected pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan this year -- was still unsettled.

“We’re not there yet,” Little said. “The real focus, at this point, is on the post-2014 enduring presence number.”

Pentagon officials expect President Obama to decide “in a relatively short period of time” how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Pentagon press secretary George Little gave that timeline in Wednesday’s morning press gaggle, but added that the more eagerly anticipated number — the expected pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan this year — was still unsettled.

“We’re not there yet,” Little said. “The real focus, at this point, is on the post-2014 enduring presence number.”

Pentagon officials have said for months that the U.S. first wanted to determine what the so-called “enduring presence” of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 would look like before determining how to get there.

For some, that may sound like the definition of putting the cart before the horse. But not at the Pentagon, where Little said the “glide slope,” or pace of troop exits from Afghanistan through 2014, should be dictated in part by what the president wants to leave in place after in 2014.

Little said that Gen. John Allen, the International Security Assistance Force commander in Kabul, has passed his recommendations to the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, but there are not yet plans for any troop announcements. However, speculation has turned to next week, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to visit Washington. According to the Wall Street Journal, Karzai departs for the U.S. on Monday. 

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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