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Obama: U.S. Forces Will Transition To Support Role In Afghanistan


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The leader of Afghanistan has had a rocky relationship with the U.S., but today at the White House, President Hamid Karzai and President Obama spoke of progress. As NPR's Jackie Northam reports, today's discussion on what role the U.S. might play in Afghanistan in the future.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The White House billed today's meeting as an opportunity for Presidents Obama and Karzai to discuss their vision for Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. and NATO forces in 2014. At a joint news conference, President Obama said Afghan security forces have improved and that American and NATO forces will move to a support role this spring, several months earlier than planned.

Mr. Obama says accelerating that transition could affect the pace of the drawdown of U.S. troops.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can't give you a precise number at this point. I'll probably make a separate announcement once I've gotten recommendations from troops - from the generals and our commanders in terms of what that drawdown might look like.

NORTHAM: President Karzai said he was happy with the decision to speed up the transition to Afghan control because it would satisfy one of his long held demands - that foreign forces move out of Afghan villages. Mr. Karzai also indicated another demand had been met.

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: We agreed on the complete return of detention centers and detainees to Afghan sovereignty and that this will be implemented soon after my return to Afghanistan.

NORTHAM: Till now, the U.S. had been reluctant to hand over full control of Afghan prisons for fear that some extremists could be released. One key issue that appeared not to be resolved concerns immunity for U.S. personnel remaining in Afghanistan after 2014. Mr. Obama stressed that any decision about a residual force hinges on an immunity agreement.

OBAMA: From my perspective, at least, it will not be possible for us to have any kind of U.S. troop presence post-2014 without assurances that our men and women who are operating there are in some way subject to the jurisdiction of another country.

NORTHAM: President Karzai said given the positive nature of today's meeting, he can now go back and make a case for immunity to his people. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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