Conflict & Justice

Obama: US forces will move to Afghan support role in spring


S President Barack Obama (R) looks on as Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 11, 2013.



US President Barack Obama welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the White House on Friday to discuss the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

In a joint press conference at the White House, Obama said most US and coalition forces will leave in the spring, while Afghan forces take the lead in security.

"Next year this long war will come to a responsible end," said Obama.

Obama said in the coming months he will announce to the American people a "responsible draw down," adding "we still face significant challenges."

The United States and its allies are scheduled to end combat operations in 2014, and the two leaders spoke about the pace of that withdrawal and the possibility of maintaining some troops on the ground, according to USA TODAY.

Some US military commanders want to keep 10,000 troops in the country after 2014, while others are lobbying for a much smaller force, USA TODAY wrote.

Currently, there are 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, the BBC reported. Most are due to leave in 2014.

Karzai said the two leaders agreed on steps forward in the Taliban peace process including allowing a "Taliban regional office" in Qatar, Doha which will serve as a regional point of contact with the Afghan government.

"During our conversations I thanked the President for the help the US has given to the Afghan people and all we have gained over the last 10 years," Karzai said.

He said while the US and the allies had made sacrifices in Afghanistan, he also acknowledged the deep sacrifices of the Afghan people.

The meeting comes at the end of Karzai's three-day trip to Washington. He also met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.