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U.S. Defense Chief Set To Meet Afghan President

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (right) is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham upon Panetta's arrival at Kabul International Airport on December 12.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Panetta arrived in the Afghan capital on December 12 for talks with Afghan officials and U.S. commanders.

Panetta's visit comes with U.S. President Barack Obama set to decide shortly how many U.S. troops to keep in Afghanistan after international forces end their mission in December 2014.

Officials say the White House is considering plans that call for between 6,000 and 10,000 U.S. troops to stay there to help maintain stability and to prevent Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from becoming a strong force again.

Currently, there are 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Karzai has warned that his government might suspend negotiations on the future U.S. force unless Washington hands over custody of all detainees held at Bagram prison outside Kabul.

U.S. officials worry that some of them might be released and then return to the battlefield.

Panetta had dinner on December 12 in Kabul with General John Allen, the top coalition commander, as well as other senior commanders.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP