Hagel would not say what his assessment of the final post-2014 numbers is yet. But, he added that, ‘‘it is the Afghan people who need to make, and will make, their own decisions about their future. We can help. We have helped, as well as our allies. But there does come a time when that should be transitioned.’’
And the transition, he said, is happening in a way that gives the Afghan people ‘‘a very hopeful future.’’
The U.S. is currently in the early stages of negotiating a bilateral security agreement with Kabul that would set the legal parameters for America’s continued military and diplomatic involvement with the nation.
Another source of anxiety among the allies is Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election; Karzai, who has led the country since U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001, is not running and there is no obvious successor.