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US troops in Afghanistan may be cut to fewer than 10,000 after 2014

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Dec. 2, 2012: Afghan security forces patrol the site where Taliban suicide bombers attacked a joint U.S.-Afghan air base in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.AP

The Obama administration is considering dropping the number of troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to far fewer than 10,000, which is the minimum Pentagon officials say they need to train Afghan forces.

A U.S. official confirmed to Fox News Monday that a range of options fewer than 10,000 troops are being considered but nothing has been decided.

Reuters first reported Monday that as few as 5,000 troops is one of the options being discussed in talks between officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department on how many troops should remain in the country after the U.S. withdrawal later this year.

Military officials have said they believe a minimum of 10,000 troops is needed in Afghanistan to train and support the Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.

The top American commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joe Dunford told lawmakers in March a force smaller than 10,000 troops would have trouble defending itself. Reuters reports Dunford said that without the support of foreign troops the Afghanistan military’s capabilities would begin to deteriorate “fairly quickly.”

There are now about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 according to Reuters.

So far, Afghan President Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement that would allow for a small U.S. peace-keeping force to remain in Afghanistan past 2014. However, the leading candidates in the election to replace him, the results of which will likely not be known for several weeks, have indicated they will sign it.