22 December 2004 -- The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan says foreign troops may need to remain in Afghanistan "indefinitely" to help Afghan security forces.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Washington that the trend is toward Afghans taking more and more responsibility for their security.
He said that over the long term he expects a lesser need for foreign forces -- but that some will likely stay for an indefinite period under agreements with the Afghan government.
Khalilzad said the security situation in Afghanistan has improved since the October election of President Hamid Karzai.
He said thousands of Afghan police and security forces have been trained, while thousands of militiamen have been persuaded to rejoin civilian life.
Some 18,000 U.S. troops and some 8,500 NATO-led forces are currently deployed in Afghanistan.