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In Afghanistan, Hagel faces early test: how many troops to leave behind

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When Gen. Mattis told lawmakers that the size of the post-2014 US troop level was still under consideration, but that he had made his own recommendation to the president, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, asked precisely what that recommendation was.

Mattis responded that he would like to see 13,600 US troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

This response caused a stir on Capitol Hill and within the halls of the Pentagon, because it is more than the roughly 8,000 to 12,000 that has reportedly been under consideration by the White House.

He noted that the NATO contribution would likely amount to roughly half of whatever the United States contributes.

Gen. John Allen, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, recently submitted his own proposal for US troop levels in the country to the White House for review and for President Obama’s ultimate decision.

A large portion of US service members are tasked with training Afghan soldiers and police. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said recently he would like to see the ranks of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) remain at a relatively high level – 352,000 – through 2018.

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