U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 “only at the invitation” of the Afghan government, and Washington is not seeking permanent bases there, a White House spokesman said Thursday.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with U.S. President Barack Obama to Texas that any U.S. troop presence after that date would be “only at the invitation of the Afghans” and “subject to an agreement.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said earlier he could allow the United States to keep nine military bases in the country as part of a long-term security pact with Washington.
Carney, however, said: “The United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan.”
The back-and-forth comes as the two countries are negotiating a deal to allow a limited U.S. troop presence to remain when the international coalition leaves next year.
The size of the “residual” force has not been agreed, with numbers ranging from 2,500 to 12,000, according to U.S. officials, as Washington winds down an 11-year-old war that has become deeply unpopular at home.