Afghan president will meet with Obama in Washington next month, Panetta says

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 US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Barack Obama will meet next year in Washington to discuss a post-2014 military presence in the war-torn country.

“The United States… has issued a formal invitation to President Karzai from President Obama to meet in Washington during the week of January 7th to discuss a shared vision of Afghanistan beyond 2014,” said Panetta at a joint press conference with Karzai in the Afghan capital Kabul on Thursday night.

Panetta added that Karzai “has expressed his willingness to accept that invitation.”

In early May, Obama and Karzai signed an agreement to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan to 2024.

The deal authorizes the presence of US troops for a period of 10 years after 2014, which was the original date agreed upon for the departure of all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan.

Washington plans to keep some 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan after the end of the formal combat operations in 2014, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on November 25.

The report added that US General John Allen, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, had also recommended that the Obama administration maintain a post-2014 force of between 6,000 and 15,000 troops in Afghanistan.

The United States and its allies entered the war in Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after 11 years, the foreign troops have still not been able to establish security in the country.

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