All American Troops Will Leave Afghanistan By End Of Year, Obama Tells Pentagon

On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel proposed a dramatic scaling-down of active-duty troops to levels not seen since World War Two. The White House followed his lead Tuesday by publicly asking the Pentagon to prepare to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, following a discussion between President Barack Obama and the president of Afghanistan about a potential security agreement.

The official White House statement came after a phone call Tuesday between President Obama and Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai. The two had debated signing a Bilateral Security Agreement, which would keep American troops in the country well into 2015 and would provide troops immunity from the Afghanistan legal system. In the phone call, Karzai indicated that he wouldn't sign the agreement, which prompted Obama to promise the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

If Karzai backtracks and does sign the agreement, Obama has indicated that a limited number of troops would remain in Afghanistan for training and security purposes.

The White House statement reads:

With regard to the Bilateral Security Agreement, in advance of the NATO Defense Ministerial, President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning. Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014. At the same time, should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan. Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year.

Defense Secretary Hagel released his own official statement in public support of the president's decision.