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US May Leave Afghanistan Entirely Next Year

White House officials say the United States is considering removing all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but that they have many other options. Officials say the decision will not be made soon, news agencies are reporting.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Tuesday played down reports that President Barack Obama may pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan when American combat troops leave at the end of next year.

He said the so-called “zero option” is one of many possible plans for postwar Afghanistan, and that the president is under no pressure to decide soon.

“I want to make clear, today’s story notwithstanding, that this is not a decision that is imminent. And we are talking about a residual force, a potential residual force, in a year and a half. So these are ongoing conversations,” said Carney.

The Obama administration has discussed the possibility of the “zero option” for several months. In January, the president’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters the administration would consider the zero option if all U.S. goals in Afghanistan are met.

“The objective of the bilateral security agreement negotiations is not to accomplish a number of U.S. troops in a country. It is to accomplish the two goals of denying a safe haven to al-Qaida and training and equipping Afghan national security forces,” said Rhodes.

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