Dempsey: No one talking about 'zero' US troops in Afghanistan post-2014

Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey disputed reports the Obama administration is considering removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next year, saying “no one has suggested zero to me.”

The U.S. and NATO are slated to hand off security responsibilities to local forces by the end of 2014, but the White House is weighing how many troops to keep in the country past that date to assist in other operations, including training their Afghan counterparts.

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During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Dempsey said “the ultimate number will be based on the mission and how deeply we want to be involved with their continued development and also what … the sovereign nation of Afghanistan wants.” 

Asked about whether it is possible no U.S. troops will post-war, Dempsey said “no one has ever suggested zero to me.” 

He added, however, that “I can't give you a number because … I'm not going to announce a number on CNN on Sunday afternoon.”

Plans to maintain a sizable U.S. presence could face opposition from Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for Obama to stick with the current drawdown timetable. But GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that withdrawing troops before Afghans are ready to handle security could plunge the country into turmoil.