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Panetta says U.S. to have "enduring presence" in Afghanistan


09:48, November 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday the United States will have an "enduring presence" in Afghanistan even after the 2014 drawdown of combat forces, and troops will stay in that country to conduct counterterrorism missions.

In a press briefing with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta said the "fundamental mission in Afghanistan" is to establish an Afghan government that stands on its own and ensure that al-Qaeda never again finds "a safe haven within Afghanistan from which to conduct attacks on the United States or any other country."

He said the U.S. side will be stationing troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to combat remnants of al-Qaeda, train and assist the Afghan Army, and provide "enabling capability."

Panetta said the U.S. side and the Afghans are discussing the post-2014 troops level.

The U.S. side is scheduled to withdraw all its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but according to agreements between Afghanistan and the United States, the U.S. side can have a presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

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