Al-Qaida fighters are still trying to make inroads into Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday, cautioning that battling the group would be a core U.S. mission there for years to come.
“The goal here is an enduring presence,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
Panetta made the comments as the United States weighs how large a military force to keep in Afghanistan when the NATO combat mission ends in 2014, ending a war that, at that point, will have stretched for more than 13 years.
The United States currently maintains approximately 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, but the residual force may number less than 10,000. President Barack Obama could decide in the coming weeks, although no deadline has been set. . .