President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said today they have agreed to speed up slightly the schedule for moving Afghanistan's security forces into the lead across the country, with US troops shifting fully to a support role. The leaders also said Obama agreed to place battlefield detainees under the control of the Afghan government. Obama, appearing at the White House with Karzai at his side, said accelerating the transition to Afghan security control this spring would set the stage for further withdrawal of US and other foreign forces.
But Obama did not say how quickly a US drawdown would be carried out this year and next. There are now 66,000 US troops there. "Starting this spring our troops will have a different mission: training, advising and assisting Afghan forces," Obama said. "It will be a historic moment." He added later that even in a backup role he could not rule out that US troops could be drawn into combat. But he emphasized that their main role would be support, such as training and advising. Karzai said he was pleased by the agreement, in part because it means that by spring there will be no foreign troops in Afghan villages. See more here. (Read more President Obama stories.)