The United States announces its plans to maintain funding for over 350,000 Afghan security personnel through 2017, as the two countries embark on a warmer post-Karzai era. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO NARRATION) The United States will keep funding Afghan security forces at the targeted peak personnel level of 352,000 at least through the 2017 fiscal year, extending a financial commitment that has cost about $4 billion annually, the United States announced during a news conference at Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat, where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been meeting with senior U.S. officials ahead of talks at the White House on Tuesday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also praised U.S. troops who have fought and died during more than 13 years of war in his country as he kicked off a visit to Washington on Monday to drive home the case for slowing the withdrawal of America forces. His words of gratitude marked a sharp contrast with his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who left office last year accusing the United States of inflicting a war on his country that has intensified with the drawdown of U.S. forces. Record numbers of Afghan security forces and civilians died last year in the fight against the Taliban. Ghani, before leaving Kabul, cautioned the impending spring fighting season would be tough. He also voiced concern about the rise in Afghanistan of Islamic State, which seized huge swaths of Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal there. With a more friendly partner in Ghani, U.S. officials acknowledge that conditions have changed since May when President Barack Obama declared that by the end of 2015 the U.S. force would be roughly halved from the current total of about 10,000 and would operate only from bases in Kabul and Bagram. Ghani has sought to slow that withdrawal and the U.S. military has been drawing up options to that end long ahead of Ghani's carefully scripted visit, which began with a private dinner on Sunday and will include talks at the White House on Tuesday and an address to Congress on Wednesday.