SAF Regional Command North by Lt. j.g. Amy Forsythe

Top General Wants 10,000 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan until 2017

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan will go to the White House on Monday to recommend keeping 10,000 troops there until 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Gen. Joseph Dunford’s plan reportedly has the support of several key leaders, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

The troops would train Afghan security forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations. All other U.S. forces would leave the country as planned at the end of the year. It’s unclear if President Barack Obama and his National Security Adviser Susan Rice support the plan.

(Read more Defense One coverage of Afghanistan here)

A bilateral security agreement must still be signed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in order for U.S. troops to stay past 2014. Karzai said he supports U.S. and NATO troops staying past the withdrawal, but he’s stalled on signing the deal ahead of April presidential elections.

“The number is up to Obama to decide,” Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi told Defense One in December. “It is not the number of troops which matter to us but the nature of their mission. We want future U.S. military presence to be in accordance with the Afghan law and does not violate our sovereignty and the basic rights of our people.”

Hagel said a decision on post-2014 troop levels needs to be made soon, so NATO countries can plan ahead. “You can’t do that at the last minute. There are budgets. There are commitments. You’ve got political constituencies. You’ve got congresses, parliaments, national leaders,” he said, adding that the deal should be in place by the NATO defense ministerial meeting next month.