President Barack Obama announced on Thursday the reversing policy of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which means the United States will slow down the process and keep the force at 9,800 in much of 2016, with a plan to cut it to 5,500 until Obama leaves office in early 2017.
According to Reuters, Obama said that the burden of Afghanistan will be handed down to his successor and that this adjustment is needed for the American national security. He stated “This isn’t the first time the adjustments have been made. This probably won’t be the last. I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next President.”
The troops that will remain will be stationed at four locations. The Afghan capital Kabul will be the base of the U.S. forces with additional military installations in Jalalabad, Bagram and Kandahar. The decision was reached after a few months of negotiations between Obama and Pentagon officials and the Afghan leaders.
According to Reuters, a White House official stated “Those have been broad discussions, deep discussions, ones that have included the President’s personal engagement and a number of very detailed questions from the President about our posture.” He also added “Our mission won’t change”, meaning that the troops will continue advising and training Afghan forces in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Taliban militants have made some recent attacks on Afghan forces and have briefly captured the city of Kunduz, but retreated after two weeks.
The war in Afghanistan came to an end in 2014, after 13 years of U.S. presence in the region aimed at destroying Al-Qaeda, an action that was authorized by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
The national security of Afghanistan is now left to Afghan forces, who are helped by the United States and NATO because the Afghan security forces are not nearly ready to take down the Taliban on their own. According to Reuters, Obama stated that this “modest, but meaningful” decision is the only way to help Afghan forces which “if they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all.”
The President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have visited the White House in March and have stated that their government is very comfortable with receiving American help and hope to have a long commitment.
This is the second revision of the Obama administration plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, since the first one in March that was supposed to cut the troops to 5,500 until the end of this year and remain at embassy level presence by the end of 2016. At the time President Obama stated that he will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end and vowed to end American presence in the country by the end of his presidency.
The plan to keep 5,500 troops in the four main locations in Afghanistan will cost the United States $14.6 billion per year in comparison to the $10 billion to keep a consolidated force at the United States embassy in Kabul. The troops will remain part of the NATO allied “Resolute Support” mission along with 6,000 non-U.S. forces.