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U.S. commander wants more troops to stay in Afghanistan, after 2014

From Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
updated 7:38 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
U.S. soldiers operating under the NATO-sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are pictured in October.
U.S. soldiers operating under the NATO-sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are pictured in October.

(CNN) -- The top U.S. commander for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has recommended to President Obama that 13,600 American troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014, a number that is potentially higher than what the administration wants to leave in the country.

At a NATO meeting in February, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said up to 12,000 troops could stay behind, but not all of those would be American troops necessarily. But Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. Central Command, revealed the new recommendation to the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday at a hearing.

Under an agreement between the Afghan government and NATO, the bulk of U.S. and NATO combat forces are to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What remains to be decided is how many troops may remain to help train Afghan forces. Mattis also said he believes about 7,000 non-U.S. troops from the NATO alliance could also remain.

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