NATO is considering maintaining a residual force of 8,000-12,000 troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, the Afghan defense minister said here Friday.
The details of the plan are still under discussion, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi told reporters after a NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels.
Pentagon chief Leon Panetta declined to discuss numbers, but stressed that any residual force would include troops from other NATO members as well as from the United States.
His comments came after German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that Washington planned to keep up to 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled end of NATO combat operations.
"The reports that the U.S. told allies that we are considering 8,000 to 12,000 U.S. troops after 2014 are not correct," Panetta's spokesman, George Little, said.
"A range of 8,000 to 12,000 troops was discussed as the possible size of the overall NATO mission, not the U.S. contribution," he said.
The post-2014 residual force is supposed to concentrate on training and advising the Afghan military.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan now stands at around 100,000 personnel, down from a peak of 140,000.
Washington plans to reduce the U.S. contingent by 50 percent over the course of this year, to 34,000 troops. EFE