Existing Afghanistan pact would cover US forces post-2014 even if new one is not signed

The Associated Press

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Commander, International Security Assistance Force, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, during a Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan if a new security agreement is not signed by the end of the year, but there is no legal reason the U.S. has to resort to the "zero option," as administration officials have repeatedly claimed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says al-Qaida is in "survival mode," but that if all international forces left this year, the terrorist network would regroup and use the region to plan and conduct operations against the West.

Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that if Afghanistan signs a new bilateral security agreement, he would feel comfortable with a residual international force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops to assist, train and advise Afghan forces. He says America would provide two-thirds of those troops and also would keep an additional several thousand forces in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism operations.

Dunford says that if no new security agreement is signed by fall, it would get increasingly difficult to manage a full exit of U.S. forces by year-end.

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