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In June, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said, on the record, that decisions about U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan would be put off.

As concerns grow over Afghanistan's fate after the planned NATO withdrawal in 2014, President Obama is taking his time before committing any troops, a senior aide said on Monday.

Obama Hesitant to Commit Troops in Afghanistan Beyond 2014

The decision would wait and see on "the potential for the political process in Afghanistan."

Civil war, who wins the election, whether there is an election, whether we can get a troop immunity deal, negotiations with the Taliban, the status of Afghan internal security forces. That kind of background matter.

On Monday, anonymous officials sent up what can be seen as a trial balloon, via New York Times, that the U.S. is considering leaving no troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, and is also considering speeding up the pace of the drawdown. The "zero option".

Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

U.S. Considers Faster Pullout in Afghanistan, New York Times

See the Daily Kos diary by Magnifico, about the article.

The anonymous statements were also interpreted as negotiating pressure. In this view, New York Times readers would be bystanders to the diplomatic messages the United States is sending to Hamid Karzai. The news is not the news. The Times is a diplomatic cable.

Today, officially reporting to Congress, special envoy James Dobbins is throwing cold water on the Monday article. The United States is committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan, if we can work out the arrangements.

High-ranking Obama administration officials have downplayed the likelihood of complete military disengagement from Afghanistan, but provided little insight on negotiations for a residual U.S. troop presence in the country beyond next year.  Senior officials testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.

US Officials Downplay 'Zero Option' for US Troops in Afghanistan, Voice of America

“We’ve made significant progress on the text of a new bilateral security agreement,” Dobbins said. “Of course, without an agreement on our presence in Afghanistan, we would not remain. But we do not believe that that’s the likely outcome of these negotiations.”

US envoy says Obama still mulling troop options for Afghanistan, but country won’t stand alone, AP

James Dobbins, the State Department's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a Senate hearing Thursday that people in Afghanistan wanted U.S. soldiers to stay.

Diplomat: We've promised to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, NBC

While speaking during a Senate hearing, James Dobbins insisted that Afghans need United States to stay in Afghanistan

US optimistic to reach an agreement with Afghans on troops, Khaama Press

Fun fact about our relationship with Afghanistan.

After the big spat about our flirtation with the Taliban, where things went farther than proper, we tried to call up Afghanistan on the phone. Afghanistan, well pissed off, told us we should send them a letter instead.

Which we sent.

But an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mr. Obama had sent one offering such assurances.

U.S. Scrambles to Save Taliban Talks After Afghan Backlash, New York Times

I'd guess we made some formal expressions of commitment in that letter. Despite what we told the world about the state of our relationship on Monday.

Fun fact about our diplomats.

Wikipedia thinks Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins is merely the former Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs. It hasn't heard about the Afghanistan stuff.

And Wikipedia still thinks the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Warlick, is merely the former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Bulgaria.

The job of negotiating U.S. positions in Afghanistan just gets no respect. And Warlick, in how he tweets, seems to miss Bulgaria pretty much. Afghanistan gets no respect from him, either.

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