Washington: US may shift its military mission in Afghanistan to an advisory role as soon as next year, senior officials said, a move that would scale back American combat role well ahead of their pullout by the end of 2014.

The move would enable the American forces to switch from current troop-intensive approach to a greater focus on targeted counter-terrorism operations as well as speeding up training of the Afghan military, Wall Street Journal reported quoting officials.

The new approach has been deliberated in recent high-level meeting involving top defence and administration officials, but no decision have been made, officials said adding that policymakers could consider other options that would adjust the mission in other ways.

Officials said agreement on a formal shift to an advisory role could come as early as a NATO meeting in May -- in the heat of US presidential election campaign.

But the change of mission would not be enforced on special operation forces, who would continue to accompany Afghan troops after the US takes an advisory role.

Quoting defence officials, WSJ said that the US forces would still be directly involved in many combat operations, though increasingly with Afghan forces in the lead.

The reports of earlier drawdown of the US troops comes as the Afghan war is becoming increasingly unpopular at home with a sharp decline in domestic political support amid a weak economy and mounting fiscal woes.

The paper said as President Barack Obama gears up for a re-election campaign he is expected to announce a change in the mission at the NATO summit and would come at the height of his 2012 campaign.

The US presently has about 98,000 troops in Afghanistan and scheduled to pullout 10,000 by the end of this year.

Official said that the administration now sees the goal of building a perfect Afghan force by 2014 as no longer attainable, and instead are looking for a force that is good enough to keep Taliban from overrunning the country.

(Agencies)