US to confine US troops to bases in Afghan

Washington: The US today said it plans to shift to "support role" in Afghanistan by 2013 so as to complete the security transition to Afghan forces by 2014 even as it sought to play down President Hamid Karzai`s order to pull out American troops from villages and confine them to bases.

The US plans to shift to "support role" by 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, adding it would complete the security transition to the security forces of Afghanistan by 2014.

At the same time, Carney said there can be no resolution of the current situation in Afghanistan without a political resolution. However, he reiterated that that the US supports an Afghan-led political reconciliation process.

The US today tried to playdown President Karzai`s order in Kabul in which he asked Washington to pull out all its troops from Afghan villages and confine them to bases.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the statement of Afghan President on early troop pullback from the country reflects his strong interest in moving as quickly as possible to a fully independent and sovereign Afghanistan.

"The Secretary (of Defense) has seen President Karzai`s statement. He believes it reflects President Karzai`s strong interest in moving as quickly as possible to a fully independent and sovereign Afghanistan," Little said in a statement.

"The Secretary also believes that we have made good progress thus far in both security gains and transition, and that it is important for us to remain focused on those efforts in the months ahead," he said.

He said Panetta enjoyed a very detailed and productive set of discussions in Afghanistan with Interior Minister Mohammadi, Defense Minister Wardak and President Karzai.

"These discussions reaffirmed our shared goal of achieving an Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself on the timeframe agreed to at Lisbon," Little said.

White House Press Secretary Carney told reporters at his daily news conference that America`s Afghan strategy is to draw down forces from Afghanistan, which is being done right now and at the end of this summer some 33,000 US troops would return home.

"Our strategy is to shift to a support role in 2013 and complete the transition in 2014. That kind of transition involves a change in the foot print," Carney said when asked about Karzai asking American troops to pull out of outposts in villages and return to their main bases.

He said the challenge in Afghanistan has been and would continue to be difficult.

"We have met with success in ultimately defeating Al Qaeda…… We are withdrawing US troops, would continue to do that, would continue to take the fight to al Qaeda in the region. We will finish the security transition by 2014 as was decided in Lisbon," Carney said.

He underlined that the US has had some indisputable success in achieving its objective in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the US would continue to play a supportive role in talks with the Taliban.

"Our goal here was to facilitate their ability to talk and maybe someday dance together. So our goal is to work ourselves out of a job if we possibly can," she said when asked about the latest statement from the Taliban they are withdrawing from the peace talks.

The Taliban on Thursday said it had suspended contacts with the US in Qatar, just days after an American shooting spree left 16 Afghans dead, dealing a blow to hopes of a peace process.

"We still feel that if there is a process that can be supported, that we ought to do that. We remain prepared to continue these discussions. Our only goal is to get Afghans to sit down together," Nuland said.

She said this process has had a lot of ups and downs and are really "only preliminary". But she underlined that "it`s only going to work if you have Taliban participants who are willing to do what`s necessary".