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Either 10,000 American troops or none at all could remain in Afghanistan after the planned large-scale drawdown by the by the end of 2014, officials who have seen the latest Pentagon plans have told The New York Times on Tuesday.
Some 10,000 troops would be needed to protect intelligence, diplomatic and military officials planning to stay in the country after this year’s deadline expires, the paper reported.
The alternative could be a so called "zero option" plan that would see all troops leave the country, a senior unnamed official said.
"The proposal is 10,000 or basically nothing, a pullout," one official told the paper.
A complete pullout has been a consistent point of reference in recent days as the U.S. tries to encourage Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a long-term bilateral security agreement between the two countries.
Earlier this month, White House Spokesman Jay Carney warned the Afghan leader that the clock was ticking and that Karzai had "weeks, not months" to sign the deal. Karzai has so far refused to put pen to paper.
Contention over civilian casualties has been a long-standing sticking point between the two nations. Karzai has also demanded that the U.S. stop drone strikes in the country.
Some insiders have also questioned the rigidity of the U.S. terms, with one telling the Times that it has met resistance among some officials in the White House National Security Council, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who question why the choice has to be 10,000 troops or zero, and nothing in between.