Panetta: US Combat Role in Afghanistan Over in 2013

But American, NATO troops will still have 'robust' advisory role
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2012 3:24 PM CST
In this picture taken on November 2, US Marines carry a wounded comrade to a helicopter in Helmand province.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – At some point next year, the US will no longer be fighting a war in Afghanistan for the first time in a decade. "Hopefully by mid to the latter part of 2013 we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise, and assist role,” defense chief Leon Panetta told reporters today. That applies to NATO troops as well, and it's the first time the Obama administration has put a date on it, reports the New York Times and Washington Post.

“It’s still a pretty robust role that we’ll be engaged in," Panetta cautioned, without going into specifics. But "it’s not going to be a kind of formal combat role that we are now." A previously announced timeline calls for all US troops to be home by the end of 2014, but it wasn't clear until today when combat duties would end. The US still has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, though 22,000 are scheduled to come home this fall. Click to read a report saying the Taliban is just waiting to swoop in. (Read more Leon Panetta stories.)

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