KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has irked Washington with his frequent criticism of American military operations, said Thursday that his government is now ready to let the United States have nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

A border spat with Pakistan and a desire to test public opinion led Karzai to break months of public silence on this issue, according to Afghan analysts. They said Karzai is concerned that Pakistan is using the Taliban to give it greater leverage, and that he wants to find out if Afghans, tired of 12 years of war, will support that size of a U.S. military footprint.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the United States “does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan.” The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would be “only at the request of the Afghan government,” he said.

Carney wouldn’t say whether the United States was perhaps seeking a temporary presence on nine bases. But Karzai said that’s how many bases the Americans had requested.

Karzai said the United States wants bases in Kabul; Bagram Air Field, north of the capital; Mazar-e-Sharif in the north; Jalalabad and Gardez near the eastern border with Pakistan; Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which are Taliban strongholds in the south; and Shindand and Herat in western Afghanistan.

In return, Afghanistan wants a U.S. commitment to boost Afghan security, strengthen its armed forces and provide long-term economic development assistance.