The U.S., Afghanistan and NATO agreed on three major post-2014 missions at their summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010: training Afghan troops, hunting al-Qaeda and ramping up diplomatic support to the Afghan government.
The senior U.S. official and one former official said the White House would like NATO to take over training Afghans, by creating its own independent command that the U.S. would contribute troops to, with its own separate security agreement with Afghanistan.
Under this scenario, the counterterrorism mission would remain U.S.-run, staffed by a few thousand U.S. special operators with possible contributions from other NATO nations, the senior official said. Those troops would focus on dismantling al-Qaeda, working together with Afghan forces.
Rhodes said the post-2014 numbers, even once announced sometime later this year, could later shift, depending on progress against al-Qaeda, or the progress in maturing Afghan security forces.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.