U.S. commander in Afghanistan calls for solid force in 2013

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States still will need “significant combat power” in Afghanistan in 2013 despite the call for reducing the force, the top U.S. commander there said Thursday.

Marine Gen. John R. Allen, in his second appearance on Capitol Hill this week, was pressed by lawmakers on the pace of the withdrawal after the surge force of 23,000 is drawn down this fall. He insisted that he will make his recommendation later this year based on the progress of coalition forces and the outcome of the fighting season.

But asked by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, about his opinion at this stage, Gen. Allen said the military would need substantial power. At year’s end troops will number about 68,000.

President Obama faces political and public pressure to accelerate the withdrawal timetable after a decade of war.

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