Joint chiefs chairman in Afghanistan for talks

ROBERT BURNS AP National Security Writer Published:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) -- A weekend visit to Afghanistan by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is aimed at assessing the type and level of additional training that U.S. troops could provide to Afghan defense forces after 2014.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, who arrived at Bagram Air Field on Saturday after an overnight flight, said that assessment will inform U.S. decisions about how many American troops should remain after the U.S. and NATO combat role ends in December 2014.

The U.S. is expected to keep between 9,000 and 10,000 in a residual force, but no final decision has been made.

Dempsey was expected to meet with U.S. and allied commanders, including the new overall commander of coalition forces, Gen. Joseph Dunford. He also planned to meet with Afghan officials and talk with soldiers in the field.

Dempsey said Friday in Stuttgart, Germany, that he would like to see how Afghan forces perform this summer before determining the size of a residual U.S. force. There are now about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a 2010 peak of about 100,000.

Among the key issues for Dempsey is the pacing of U.S. troop withdrawals this year and next, as well as the rate of improvement among Afghan security forces.

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