- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2013

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly told his German counterpart that the United States would leave between 8,000 and 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat missions have ended.

But Mr. Panetta is disputing that account of his meeting with the defense minister, Thomas de Maiziere, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Mr. de Maiziere told reporters on Friday that Mr. Panetta made the claim during a meeting in Brussels, the AP said.

Mr. Panetta spoke to reporters shortly after that claim, however, and said the numbers were inaccurate, AP said. He said he was only giving Mr. de Maiziere a possible range of troops from all countries that could remain, the report said.

“The reports that the U.S. told allies that we are considering 8-12,000 U.S. troops after 2014 are not correct,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said Friday in a written statement.

Mr. Little said that range of troops was discussed as the “possible size of the overall NATO mission, not the U.S. contribution.”

“The President is still reviewing options and has not made a decision about the size of a possible U.S. presence after 2014, and we will continue to discuss with Allies and the Afghans how we can bet carry out two basic missions: targeting the remnants of [Al Qaeda] and its affiliates, and training and equipping Afghan forces,” the press secretary’s statement said.

The Obama administration has talked about a plan for 352,000 troops as part of a five-year security mission, AP reported.

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