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US: No reason to change troop pullout schedule

Associated Press

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – U.S. defense officials say Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not demand, in a meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, that all American forces be out of Afghan villages, despite a Karzai statement Thursday calling for a quick withdrawal.

Pentagon press secretary George Little says the issue of leaving villages came up, but he says discussion reflected a desire to quickly become an independent nation.

A senior U.S. official says the U.S. sees no reason to expect a change. The official says it’s unclear whether the U.S. could withdraw troops from villages by 2013. The official spoke anonymously to discuss a private meeting.

Karzai said Thursday he wanted troops to leave rural areas and villages and stay on bases. He also said Afghanistan can take the lead in security in 2013.

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