The Pentagon has offered President Obama a stark choice: Leave 10,000 troops in Afghanistan at the end of the year, or yank them all. The military argues that dropping below that threshold will leave it unable to protect any remaining US personnel, the New York Times reports. The State Department likes the 10,000 plan, but the military's all-or-nothing mentality has rankled Joe Biden and other key White House officials, who want to find a middle ground.
Either way, troop levels may hit zero much sooner than anticipated. The plan calls for an accelerated exit that would bring the troops home by the end of Obama's second term, the Wall Street Journal reports. That would allow Obama to say he ended the long war, but Biden and Co. worry it's not enough time for the remaining troops to have an impact, and it's drastically sooner than the 2024 date negotiated with Hamid Karzai. But that deal is trapped in limbo, with relations now frosty enough that Karzai's government is cracking down on ads touting the benefits of keeping US troops in the country, Reuters reports. US groups had bought the TV spots to pressure Karzai into signing the deal. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)