KABUL - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived on an unannounced visit to Kabul on Wednesday for talks with military commanders ahead of a decision on how large a US military presence to keep in the country after the NATO mission ends in 2014.

Panetta has not disclosed how large a force he thinks will be needed, but one US official has told Reuters that figures as low as 6,000 US troops were under consideration.

"The size of that enduring presence is something that the president is going to be considering over these next few weeks," Panetta told troops in Kuwait before boarding his flight to Kabul.

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