White House, NATO set final summit on Afghan war

President Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen agreed to hold the summit during a joint meeting in Washington on Friday. 

"We’ve seen great progress in [Afghanistan]. We want to continue that progress ... continuing to work effectively with their Afghan counterparts so that moving into next year, we have a successful Afghan election, and we continue transition until the end of 2014 whereby our combat roles will be completed," Obama told reporters at the White House. 

For his part, Rasmussen reiterated the alliance's support for the White House's deadline to have all U.S. and coalition forces out of the country within the next year. 

"Our goal is in sight [and] soon, we will reach an important milestone," the NATO chief said during the joint briefing with Obama. 

Roughly 66,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, with half of those forces scheduled to withdraw from the country this spring. 

The final 32,000 American forces remaining in country will start coming home following the country's presidential election in April 2014 — officially ending America's combat role in Afghanistan. 

"The Afghans will take the lead for security across the country ... [and] by the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed, our combat troops will return home, the Afghan security forces will take full responsibility for the security," he added. 

Obama noted the two leaders discussed several options on how to prepare and support Afghanistan as it assumes control of the country, politically and militarily, after 2014 and beyond. 

"We had an opportunity to discuss not only the planning for the next year and a half, but also what kinds of steps we could take post-2014," Obama said. 

Those steps, he added, will "continue to ensure that Afghan security forces are effective and can control their own borders, and NATO members can be assured that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for terrorism in the future." 

However, Obama and Rasmussen declined to provide details on the number of U.S. and NATO troops that would remain behind in Afghanistan to aid in that transition. 

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the head of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, along with other former American commanders have called for a U.S. force of more than 13,000 troops for postwar Afghanistan. 

That force would be backed by a 6,000 to 7,000-man NATO contingent, with the total coalition force conducting training and advising missions for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 

Former Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis and former top officer in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, also expressed support for the 13,000-troop force. 

However that recommendation runs contrary to the 8,000 to 9,000 troops the White House is reportedly eying for postwar Afghanistan. 

Administration officials have also flirted with the notion of leaving no American troops in country after 2014. 

Whatever the postwar troop figure ends up being, that force will represent America's legacy in the "final chapter" of the Afghan war, according to the president. 

"Not only will [we] ... be able to underscore this final chapter in our Afghan operations but also to paint a picture of a future whereby we’re partnering with the Afghan government on behalf of the Afghan people and on behalf of world security," Obama said.