That figure is the midpoint of a range of 8,000 to 12,000 troops debated in recent days within the White House as the current international mission ends this year.
    
"US military leaders have presented the White House with a plan that would keep 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but then start drawing the force down to nearly zero by the end of President Barack Obama's term, according to senior officials," a popular daily reported.
    
Quoting unnamed officials involved in the discussions, the newspaper said that such a request reflects a far shorter time frame for a US military presence in Afghanistan than commanders had previously envisaged.

About 37,500 American troops are currently in Afghanistan, about twice as many as the number of international forces also there.

On its part, the White House said Obama has not yet made decisions about final troop numbers. "I'm not going to discuss the details of our ongoing deliberations," Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council, said.

"We will be weighing inputs from our military commanders, as well as the intelligence community, our diplomats, and development experts as we make decisions about our-post 2014 presence in Afghanistan," she said while responding to questions after the publication of the news report on Afghanistan.
    
"Our position continues to be that if we cannot conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) promptly, then we will initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.

That is not a future we are seeking, and we do not believe that it is in Afghanistan’s interests," she insisted.

"The further this slips into 2014, however, the more likely such an outcome is. As the inter-agency continues considering options to present to the President for a post-2014 presence, we will have to increasingly factor the lack of a BSA into our planning," Hayden said.
    
"We will need to frame decisions based on our clear position that we cannot pursue a post-2014 mission without a BSA and on the likelihood of a future without a US or NATO military presence in Afghanistan," she said, urging Afghanistan to sign BSA as soon as possible.
    
"It remains true that the delay in signing negatively impacts confidence in the region as well as our and our allies' ability to plan a potential follow-on mission, and with the drawdown already ongoing, decisions have to be made soon about issues such as base closures and force levels," she said.

Without a BSA, near-term decisions about those issues would have to be made accordingly, the White House official argued.

(Agencies)

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