The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan might fall significantly below the 10,000 minimum prerequisite laid out by the U.S. military leaders to train Afghan forces, Obama administration officials told Reuters.
"The discussion is very much alive," a U.S. official told Reuters. "They're looking for additional options under 10,000 [troops]."
Last month, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told senators he had recommended that the U.S. keep around 8,000-12,000 international troops in country to carry out a counterterrorism mission and advise Afghan troops.
The decision to possibly draw down to a force of even less than 5,000 troops is also driven by renewed confidence by Washington officials that Afghan security forces would be able to defeat a Taliban-led insurgency, Reuters said.
The remaining U.S. force could focus almost exclusively on counterterrorism, such as tracking militants allied with the al Qaeda insurgency along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and training operations.
There are roughly 33,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2011.