Panetta: Combat Mission in Afghanistan to End in 2013

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday US and NATO forces will begin transitioning from the traditional combat mission in Afghanistan to a training and advising role in 2013, similar to the final days in Iraq. However, US troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2014, Panetta told reporters while aboard a military aircraft headed to Brussels where Panetta would meet with NATO defense ministers. “Hopefully by the mid to latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise, and assist role,” he said. This “doesn’t mean we’re not going to be combat-ready,” noted Panetta. Rather, forces just won’t be in “the formal combat role we’re in now,” he said. Panetta said he intends to ask his fellow defense ministers to commit one billion euros for the Afghan army and police forces. “The key is to have a sufficient and sustainable [Afghan] force that can be there for the future,” he said. (Panetta transcript) (AFPS report by Karen Parrish)