U.S. and Afghan leaders laid the groundwork Monday for new relations between the two countries linked for years as war partners, including plans to seek American funding to maintain an Afghan security force of 352,000 and discussions about future U.S. troop levels as the war winds down.
The all-day session, at Camp David in Maryland’s bucolic Catoctin mountains, included dozens of U.S. and Afghan officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. The talks were aimed at relaunching a U.S.-Afghan relationship strained by nearly 14-years of war and America’s often-testy relations with the former president, Hamid Karzai.
Ghani is expected to meet with President Obama on Tuesday, a meeting during which officials expect the U.S. to make clear its decision to slow the pace of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
Obama has promised to pull all remaining troops out by the end of his presidency. But deficiencies in the Afghan security forces, heavy casualties in the ranks of the Afghan army and police, a fragile new government and fears that Islamic State fighters could gain a foothold in Afghanistan have combined to persuade Obama to slow the withdrawal.