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Timetable for US forces' pullout from Afghanistan to be reviewed
Saturday February 21, 2015 7:33 PM, IANS

New US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Saturday, said the timetable for the drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan would be reviewed.

Addressing a joint press conference with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani here in Arg, or Presidential Palace, after talks, Carter, who took over as defense secretary only days ago said the withdrawal plan of US troops from Afghanistan would be discussed in further detail during President Ghani's visit to Washington and his meeting with President Barack Obama next month.

After the end of the combat mission of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in late December 2014 in Afghanistan, a contingent of more than 12,000 NATO-led troops, including around 10,800 Americans have remained in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan national security forces.

Under President Obama's drawdown plan, the 10,800-strong contingent of US troops remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is due to decrease to some 5,500 by the end of 2015 and then pull out altogether by early 2017 except 1,000 personnel to provide security to the US embassy in the country.

To a query, the US defense secretary said the war on terror was doubtlessly a mission and should go ahead, Xinhua news agency reported.

President Ghani, who previously called for reviewing the forces' pullout plan from Afghanistan said at the press conference that President Obama's timetable for the forces withdrawal was respected.

Praising the role of the international community in the war on terror, President Ghani said that the US forces would have no combat role from now on in Afghanistan. He also added that a new era of relationships has begun between Afghanistan and the US.

Replying to a question on peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent outfits such as the Haqqani network, Ghani said "We are now on the right track to achieve peace, but can't give details at the moment."

The new Pentagon chief, who paid his first visit to Afghanistan since assuming office last Tuesday, would also call on Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and US forces commander to assess the situation here.

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