The Obama administration is weighing proposals for post-war troop numbers that could keep as many as 10,000 American service members in Afghanistan after 2014, according to media reports.
The proposals to extend a sizable military presence could face opposition from Congress, where some Democrats have pushed for maintaining or accelerating the 2014 timetable.
Many Republican lawmakers, though, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have expressed concern that drawing down all U.S. forces from Afghanistan as in Iraq could leave the nation susceptible to violence and instability.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, will submit his recommendations on how quickly to begin drawing down the remaining 66,000 American forces in the country. The White House is expected to ask Allen to submit multiple plans for the president to review.
Reports said that Allen is pushing to maintain a strong military force through the end of 2013 to better aid the transition to Afghan-security control. The White House, though, would prefer a smaller presence in the run-up to 2014 and beyond, according to the Times.
Officials are still considering different plans, with one calling for fewer than 1,000 American forces, while another plan calls for 10,000 U.S. troops.
NATO forces are expected to also remain and assist U.S. forces in continuing to train their Afghan counterparts. Any counterterrorism operations, however, would be handled by U.S. and Afghan forces.
The reports said that U.S. officials are speaking to the Afghan government about a long-term security agreement.
President Hamid Karzai is said to be open to a post-2014 U.S. military presence but would like American forces to be under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts. That point proved a stumbling block when U.S. negotiators tried to seek a similar security deal with Iraq, leading to the full withdrawal of all American military forces.
Allen has been tapped to be the new head of U.S. forces in Europe, but his nomination is currently on hold pending an investigation into “potential improper communications” between him and a Florida woman, Jill Kelley, uncovered after an FBI probe into former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Allen has denied any wrongdoing, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has expressed confidence in his top Afghanistan commander.