U.S. officials have hinted at being near a close of the American engagement in Afghanistan, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday in Brussels that combat operations will end in 2013. “Hopefully by mid to the latter part of 2013 we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise-and-assist role,” Panetta said. U.S. and NATO forces will remain for the foreseeable future, and the transfer is in keeping with a previously established timetable. The announcement, however, signaled that the U.S. and its allies are determined to hasten the process.
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