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Originally published Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:34 PM

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Joint Chiefs chairman visits local military, Boeing, Microsoft

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a visit Thursday to Seattle, said the U.S. military will have an "enduring presence" in Afghanistan after combat troops are withdrawn in 2014, including counterterror operations and some bases.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In the years ahead, the U.S. military will continue to have an "enduring presence," in Afghanistan, the cost of which has yet to be determined, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was in Seattle on Thursday.

U.S. combat forces are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Early next year, Dempsey said, there will be discussions with Afghan officials about the scope of support that will be provided once the U.S. combat troops are gone.

"What we have agreed on is the missions. We have agreed that we will provide training, advice and assistance at some level. We haven't determined what level," Dempsey said in a meeting with reporters.

After 2014, there also is recognition the U.S. military in Afghanistan will have what Dempsey termed a "lingering counterterror operation," and will support the State Department and other U.S. government agencies.

All of this will require bases, but it is still unclear how many would be needed for this effort, according to Dempsey.

Dempsey said this planning effort will eventually "yield the kind of clarity" needed to come up with cost estimates.

Dempsey's visit to Seattle this week included linking up with soldiers, sailors, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel.

He visited Microsoft, where he discussed cybersecurity issues.

Dempsey also met with Boeing officials, where he talked about the potential impact of sequestration, the nearly $500 billion in across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon scheduled to begin in January and to take effect over the next decade unless Congress comes up with an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

Boeing's Defense Department work includes a $35 billion contract to build new Air Force refueling tankers in Everett, and the company could be slammed by the budgets cuts.

"I wanted to get a sense of their level of concern, and they are concerned," Dempsey said.

"We are counting on all of our elected leaders to find a way to accomplish the multiple tasks they have to reduce the deficit and restore the economy. ... But sequestration is not the answer," Dempsey said.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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