"This will mean the delayed withdrawal of up to 1,000 U.S. troops, so that up to 10,800 troops, rather than 9,800, could remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year, and for the first few months in 2015," he said in a joint press conference with Ghani.
NATO is shifting from a combat mission to a support one in Afghanistan, which is to start on Jan. 1, 2015. The new mission aims to train and advise Afghan forces in their combat against Taliban militants. It is said to involve 12,000 troops, with the United States contributing the largest number of trainers and advisors.
Hagel added that the increase in the number of stationed soldiers was not due to the rising level of violence in the Afghan capital and other provinces.
He also dismissed the notion that delaying the withdrawal was against the previous commitments by the President Barak Obama, informs Report citing Anadolu Agency.
“The president has provided U.S. military commanders with the flexibility to manage any temporary force shortfall that we might experience for a few months," he said.
Hagel said some 5,500 U.S. soldiers would remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2015 and most of them would later be withdrawn by the end of 2016.
Concerning cooperation in the civil sector, Hagel mentioned the U.S. has contributed some 8 billion dollars in the past three years alone i.e. during his tenure as defense secretary.
Hagel, who is a Vietnam War veteran, said the Taliban would do everything they could to disrupt the new Afghan government. “I have confidence in the Afghan security forces that they will continue to meet these challenges,” he added.
President Ghani said he would personally be conducting interviews before appointing high-ranking military officials.
The Afghan president took the opportunity to highlight measures taken to ensure transparency in the government.