The Pentagon has proposed leaving 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 but then draw down the number of troops to zero by the end of 2016, CBS News confirmed Wednesday.
While White House officials have not publicly commented on the proposal, it is contingent on Afghan President Hamid Karzai signing the Bilateral Security Agreement, which has been a point of contention between the two countries, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
The figure of 10,000 troops is around the minimum number officials say is required to protect the remaining diplomatic, military and intelligence personnel and installations in the country, The New York Times reports.
According to multiple reports, the Pentagon is saying, essentially, either leave 10,000 there or pull out entirely.
In a December appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that a U.S. retreat from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is entirely possible if Karzai continues to refuse to sign the security agreement.
“I hope he'll come to the right decision on this. Because we need that bilateral security agreement signed for our own planning, for our own purposes, as well as our international partners,” Hagel told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan in an interview from Afghanistan, where he was traveling.
Hagel warned that there is “a very real possibility” that the U.S. will have to make a full retreat from the country at the end of 2014 if Karzai doesn’t sign the agreement.
“If we don't have a bilateral security agreement, which I've noted, that means we can't protect our forces that would be here after 2014, no international partners will come, Afghanistan essentially will be alone. But we have no other options,” he said.
“Unless we have the security of an agreement to protect our forces … then we'll have no choice. We will not be able to stay,” he said.
A gathering of tribal elders unanimously approved the agreement last year, but Karzai refused to sign it at the time. One point of contention is that the pact would grant immunity to American troops from local laws.
Karzai has since said the pact would only be signed after presidential elections scheduled for April.