The U.S. and NATO have pledged to stay in Afghanistan through the end of 2014 and hand off responsibility for security to Afghan troops by then. How to get to that point, though, is not clear. And recent statements by key U.S. officials have only confused things more.
France's plan to withdraw from Afghanistan a year ahead of schedule is of particular concern in a small province near Kabul. Local authorities say the 3,900 French troops deployed there have held an important line against the Taliban, and that an early exit could plunge the area into crisis.
U.S. and Afghan officials have resumed talks on a deal that will determine how many American troops stay after the NATO mission ends. But until a deal is signed, it's hard for Afghans to know what's ahead, and the uncertainty may be helping the insurgents.
The surprise announcement that the U.S. and the Taliban could soon begin peace talks in Qatar may have increased the chances of a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. But some Afghans wonder whether such talks are about stabilizing Afghanistan — or just helping U.S. troops leave.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the U.S. hopes to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in late 2013. However, U.S. troops would still remain in the country through the end of 2014. Panetta is meeting this week with NATO defense ministers, and the Afghanistan mission is a key item on the agenda.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says U.S. troops hope to begin transitioning from a combat role in Afghanistan to a role that focuses on training Afghan troops instead. The transition could happen sooner than expected — possibly by mid- to late-2013. U.S. troops would still remain in Afghanistan through at least the end of 2014, however. Audie Cornish talks to NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, who has the latest.
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