Published January 04, 2013
The White House is not considering any option that would leave more than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, a senior administration official and a senior military source told Fox News -- despite reports that the administration could leave a much larger footprint after the deadline for handing over security to the Afghans.
Earlier this week Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, provided three options to the Pentagon for a way forward. None of them went "north of 10,000 troops," according to the administration official.
The official emphasized that none of these plans are set in stone and that until the president announces his decision the plans could be subject to change.
Administration officials cited a "growing confidence in the Afghan Security Forces" as a major factor in planning for a smaller U.S. presence.
Meanwhile, any decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 needs to be approved by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who would sign a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the U.S.
The SOFA, among other things, determines whether or not U.S. troops have immunity from Afghan laws. The Obama administration was unable to convince Iraqis to provide immunity for U.S. troops beyond 2011, a sticking point that forced the U.S. to withdraw all troops and leave no residual military force.
That is a situation Obama hopes to avoid this time around and it will likely be a topic of discussion when Karzai visits Washington, D.C., next week.