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Kerry And Karzai Meet To Discuss U.S. Presence In Afghanistan

The U.S. desire to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan is the subject of talks today in Kabul, where Secretary of State John Kerry is in prolonged discussions with President Hamid Karzai. Most of the U.S. troops would continue training Afghan forces, while another contingent works against terrorist groups.

As for how many Americans would be posted to Afghanistan, NPR's Sean Carberry says a precise number hasn't emerged, but he adds that "through conversations and comments by military officials, the range is about 5,000 to 10,000."

From Kabul, Sean tells our Newscast unit that two main points seem to stand in the way of an agreement.

One is Afghanistan's request for "a firm security guarantee," he says, in which the U.S. would pledge to act if the country is attacked. But for the U.S., such an agreement would require a treaty and Senate confirmation.

And American officials want "to be able to conduct counterterrorism operations here against al-Qaida remnants," Sean reports — something Afghanistan opposes because it would mean foreign troops would act unilaterally.

As the talks continued Saturday, they expanded well beyond their initial schedule, Sean says. A planned afternoon news conference was repeatedly pushed back; Kerry's departure from Kabul for dinner and meetings in Paris was also postponed.

The U.S. has said it wants to finalize a deal on the issue by the end of October.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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