Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) meets with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon in Washington on January 10, 2013.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have discussed the role of the United States in Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014.
“After a long and difficult past, we finally are, I believe, at the last chapter of establishing a sovereign Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself for the future,” Panetta said during a Thursday meeting with Karzai.
“We’ve come a long way towards a shared goal of establishing a nation that you and we can be proud of,” Panetta claimed.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext of combating terrorism. The invasion removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity remains across the country despite the presence of thousands of US-led forces.
Reports say Washington plans to keep up to 9,000 US troops in Afghanistan to conduct what it calls counter-terrorism operations and to assist Afghan forces. The United States had previously pledged to completely withdraw all its forces from the country by the end of 2014.
Heading a high-ranking delegation, the Afghan president arrived in Washington on Tuesday for a three-day visit. He has also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Karzai is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama later on Friday.
The United States currently has about 66,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan.