- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta welcomed his Czech Republic counterpart at the Pentagon on Tuesday morning to discuss Czech troops in Afghanistan and other issues.

Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra favors an exit date in 2014 for Czech troops, who are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2012, according to the Czech news agency CTK.

Mr. Vondra has not specified troop strength but has said helicopter crews and training specialists could remain, while Czech special forces would end their mission this year, according to CTK.

The Czech Republic has 590 troops in Afghanistan, including an Afghan army training team and a police training team in Wardak province, a task force in Kabul, a provincial reconstruction team in Logar, and special forces in Nangarhar, according to the Czech Defense Ministry website.

Mr. Vonda arrived in Washington late Monday and is scheduled to speak at the Atlantic Council about the U.S. commitment to Europe and NATO.

He also will meet members of congressional armed services committees and of the National Security Council, according to czechposition.com.