WASHINGTON -- The Obama Administration is considering a complete pullout of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 2014, a reversal of the current policy of keeping a small number of units there after the scheduled 2014 drawdown and a sign of mounting tension between President Obama and Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
CBS News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reports that top White House aides admit the change reflects Obama’s mounting personal frustration with Karzai. U.S.-Afghan tensions boiled over in June, following initial steps toward a launch of coordinated formal peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
One day after the talks between U.S. and Afghan officials and the Taliban were set to begin, Karzai publicly denounced the effort and suspended all conversations with the U.S. over future military cooperation.
The so-called “zero option” would remove the residual counter-terrorism and advisory force set to stay in Afghanistan after the 2014 draw-down. The option has been on the table since January but, Garrett said, until this week it was raised more as a point of leverage in conversations between Washington and Kabul than as a serious consideration.
The current plan would decrease U.S. presence in Afghanistan from approximately 63,000 to 34,000 by February, 2014 but the increased diplomatic tension as well as troop deaths -- 69 U.S. military deaths this year and 2,115 over the course of the Afghan conflict—could see a more significant or complete draw-down within that time frame.
White House officials insist no final decisions have been made.