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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he “strongly supports” President Barack Obama’s decision to “leave a limited US troop presence in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends” later this year. However, he acknowledged the President’s plan is contingent on whether Afghan leaders sign a bilateral security agreement that protects Americans operating in Afghanistan from local prosecution. The effort was stalled by outgoing President Hamid Karzai, but has widespread support among other Afghan leaders. “This presence … will help ensure that al-Qaeda cannot reconstitute itself in Afghanistan, and it will help us sustain the significant progress we have made in training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces,” said Hagel in a statement released Tuesday. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the President’s decision “aligns tasks with resources.” Dempsey said he called Afghan Gen. Sher Mohammed Karimi to inform him of the plan this morning, noting the military leader was relieved to hear the news. “When I spoke to him and informed him of the President’s decision to provide Operation Resolute Support with approximately 9,800 US service members in regional construct, he said, ‘Thank God,’” Dempsey said, according to a May 27 Pentagon report.