President Barack Obama is nowhere near a decision on how many U.S. troops, if any, to station in Afghanistan after 2014 once the bulk of U.S. forces leave, the White House said on Tuesday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was possible Obama would adopt the so-called "zero option" and not leave any troops behind in Afghanistan. The size of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan after 2014 will be negotiated with the Afghan government, he said.
"That's an ongoing process so the suggestion that we are somehow close to a determination or conclusion in that negotiation is incorrect. There is no decision imminent," Carney briefed reporters on Tuesday.
Carney was responding to media reports that the United States was considering pulling out all its troops from Afghanistan next year amid tension between President Barack Obama's administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.
Obama is committed to wrapping up U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the United States has been talking with officials in Afghanistan about keeping a small residual force there of perhaps 8,000 troops.
Carney also said that despite a reported row over the Taliban's office in the Qatari capital Doha, the United States will continue to pursue peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Earlier reports said that the Taliban had closed their office in Doha, where officials had hoped Afghan peace talks could resume, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to their raising a flag and giving it a nameplate that suggested they wanted to set up a government-in-exile.
"We knew that this would be a difficult process. It has been a difficult process and will continue to be. And if this effort, the Doha office effort, does not success we will pursue means and other avenues for peace," Carney said.
U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001. The United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban who had harbored the al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States weeks earlier.
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