Secret U.S. talks with Afghanistan could see troops stay past 2014

There are at least five bases in Afghanistan which are likely candidates to house large contingents of American special forces, intelligence operatives, surveillance equipment and military hardware post-2014. In the heart of one of the most unstable regions in the world and close to the borders of Pakistan, Iran and China, as well as to central Asia and the Persian Gulf, the bases would be rare strategic assets…

A European diplomat in Kabul said: “It is difficult to imagine the Taliban being happy with US bases [in Afghanistan] for the foreseeable future.”

Senior Nato officials argue that a permanent international military presence will demonstrate to insurgents that the west is not going to abandon Afghanistan and encourage them to talk rather than fight.

The Afghan-American negotiations come amid a scramble among regional powers to be positioned for what senior US officers are now describing as the “out years”.