Obama: U.S. will not stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2012 2:23 PM
Obama: U.S. will not stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the United States was committed to long-term ties with Afghanistan but would not seek to extend its military presence longer than needed to disable al Qaeda and ensure a modicum of stability as foreign troops withdraw.

Obama told a news conference the violence that erupted after U.S. soldiers burned copies of the Koran on a NATO military base last month was an indication that "now is the time" for NATO to transition out of the lead for security.

After over a decade of war, NATO nations plan to withdraw most combat troops by the end of 2014 as the West seeks to gradually put local forces in the lead.

On Tuesday, the Afghan government said it may soon reach an agreement with the Obama administration on U.S.-managed detention centers, which would pave the way for a bilateral agreement that the White House hopes will define the long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Alister Bull and White House team; Editing by Sandra Maler)