WASHINGTON -- The U.S. presence in Afghanistan after international troops withdraw in 2014 is expected to top the agenda Friday when U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meet at the White House.
"President Obama looks forward to welcoming the Afghan delegation to Washington and discussing our continued transition in Afghanistan and our shared vision of an enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan," the White House said late Monday.
Karzai left Kabul before noon Monday for the three-day visit. He is to meet Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Thursday.
On Tuesday, he is to visit in hospital the head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, Asadullah Khalid, who was seriously injured in a December terrorist attack in Kabul, according to the Afghan embassy in Washington. The injured official was transferred to the U.S. for treatment.
The embassy said discussions during Karzai's visit would primarily focus on improving security, carrying out economic and political transitions, equipping and strengthening Afghan security forces and pursuing the peace process.
The Afghan Taliban on Saturday promised more bloodshed should U.S. troops retain a presence in the country after 2014. The movement said the "reason behind all the turmoil and anarchy in the region" is the American presence in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan and the U.S. signed a strategic partnership agreement in May. The U.S. has also designated Afghanistan as an important non-NATO ally. The U.S. and NATO are set to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The security pact now under negotiation would let the U.S. retain some military bases and a footprint after its key forces withdraw from the country.
According to a recent report in The New York Times, U.S. General John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, outlined options to the Pentagon that would keep from 6,000 to 20,000 American troops there after 2014. The newspaper cited unnamed officials.
The 6,000 level would present the higher risk of failure for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and would likely be limited to a counterterrorism force of special operations units, the Times said.
The U.S. currently has more than 65,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. NATO has about 30,000 troops.
One of the major issues for the continuing presence of U.S. troops is immunity for them if they violate Afghan law. Karzai said in December that he was willing to consider immunity for U.S. soldiers if his demands concerning Afghanistan's sovereignty were respected.
Those demands included the handover of all U.S. detainees and the closure of all U.S. prisons in the country, a handover of control of Afghan airspace and a halt to military raids on villages.