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US troops in Afghanistan are to end "most" combat operations, earlier than originally planned. American forces are expected to switch to a support role instead.
The move was announced after Afghan President Hamid Karzai met his US counterpart Barack Obama on January 11 to discuss the role of the US in Afghanistan after 2014, when the mandate of the ISAF expires .
"Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission - training, advising, assisting Afghan forces," said Obama following the meeting. "It will be a historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty," he added.
"The international forces, the American forces, will be no longer present in the villages, [...] it will be the task of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection," the Afghan leader said, adding he was "very happy" that Afghan forces would take over responsibility.
Most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave in 2014. Between 6,000 and 10,000 could remain in the country beyond 2014 in a support role.