Remember Obama’s promise to remove all troops from Afghanistan? Yes, he had to rethink that because the reality is that things aren’t going so well there.
President Obama will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017, abandoning his pledge to end the war on his watch and turning the long-running war into a 2016 campaign issue.
Mr. Obama is expected to make the announcement at the White House Thursday morning. Senior administration officials told The Associated Press he would outline plans to maintain the current force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017.
Mr. Obama had originally planned to pull out all but a small, embassy-based U.S. military presence by the end of next year, a timeline coinciding with the final weeks of his presidency. But military leaders argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the U.S. to beat back a resurgent Taliban and hold onto gains made over the last 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid.
Just a few weeks ago, Taliban forces seized the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan. Islamic State fighters and other extremists also have been on the rise in the country where Osama bin Laden planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
The troops staying in Afghanistan beyond 2016 will continue to focus on counterterrorism missions and training and advising Afghan security forces, officials said. They will be based in Kabul and Bagram Air Field, as well as bases in Jalalabad and Kandahar.
Last week, the top commander in Afghanistan said he recommended to Mr. Obama that U.S. troops remain in country past December 2016.
“The president is well aware of the tenuous security situation,” Army Gen. John F. Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I do believe we have to provide our senior leaders with options different than the current plan that we’re going with.”
Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, urged Mr. Obama to end his “politically motivated withdrawal” from Afghanistan. He said the U.S. risks another nightmare similar to Iraq, where the Islamic State terror army now holds significant territory since the 2011 American exit.
Read more: WT