Panetta: ‘We’re Not Departing Afghanistan’

December 14, 2012 - 10:38 AM

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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the United States does have plans to draw down its military personnel from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but that the United States is “not departing Afghanistan.”

“Well, first and foremost, we're not departing Afghanistan. We are going to maintain an enduring presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014,” Panetta said at a Wednesday press conference alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He continued, “We'll be drawing down our forces. Obviously, the Afghan army will assume full responsibility for the security of the country. But we will be there to provide support, to provide training, to provide assistance, to provide help on counterterrorism, and to provide support for the forces that are here. So we will be maintaining an enduring presence here.”

When asked about the number of American troops who will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Panetta said it would be revealed when Karzai and President Barack Obama “feel it is appropriate.”

APTOPIX Afghanistan Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

“With regards to the -- the number on the enduring presence, that will be an issue that will be discussed by the president with President Karzai, in consultation with him,” Panetta said. “And then ultimately I assume when they feel it is appropriate, that will be revealed to not only the American people, but the Afghan people as well.”

Karzai echoed that sentiment, saying specific numbers would be discussed when he visits Washington, D.C. during the week of Jan. 7.

The Obama administration has said that it plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by Dec., 31 2014, which is also when the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) is expected to take full responsibility of security operations.

According to the CNSNews.com Afghan War Casualties Index, 2,053 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of U.S. operations in 2001.