Afghanistan withdrawal plans progress

Defense Secretary Panetta and Gen. John Allen discuss options for Afghanistan withdrawal ahead of Panetta's Tuesday afternoon White House meeting.

The White House and the Pentagon will sync up this afternoon to potentially discuss plans for the Afghanistan withdrawal to include the number of troops the U.S. plans to keep in Afghanistan after 2014.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will meet with President Obama at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the White House following a teleconference Panetta held with Gen. John Allen, the head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Tuesday morning.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that U.S. officials have discussed keeping 10,000 troops in Afghanistan following the completion of the U.S. planned withdrawal in 2014. However, Pentagon spokesman George Little disputed those reports Monday.

“We haven’t really reached a point where any single number has ripened into recommendations,” Little told reporters.

The U.S. currently has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan as NATO forces work to close down the massive war fighting infrastructure set up across the country during the past ten years of fighting. Obama announced his plan to leave by 2014, but following a rash of insider attacks with supposed Afghanistan soldiers killing NATO troops, some have questioned whether a speedier withdrawal is wise.

Little confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Allen discussed withdrawal scenarios with Panetta in their morning teleconference. However, until the analysis is finished and the concrete options are presented, Allen did not present his formal recommendations to Panetta.

“The precise timeline hasn’t been nailed down,” Little said when asked what when Allen would present his formal recommendations on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The Defense Department’s Inspector General has continued to complete an investigation into the relationship between Allen and Florida socialite Jill Kelley. Some have questioned whether that investigation has delayed the recommendations and analysis of the Afghanistan withdrawal. The investigation has already delayed Allen’s nomination NATO supreme commander.

Little disputed this assumption.

“The IG investigation has not delayed this process,” Little said.

Allen was able to report continued military progress in Afghanistan, Little said. Allen pointed to the increased “number of Afghans living under an Afghan security lead” as one metric. He also cited “violence levels decreasing.”