President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and 5,500 when he leaves office in 2017, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands off the conflict to a successor.
“I’m absolutely confident this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Adding that the security situation is still very fragile, Obama called the new war plan a “modest but meaningful” extension of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, which he originally planned to end next year. He acknowledged America’s weariness of the lengthy conflict but said he was “firmly convinced we should make this extra effort.”
— Jessica Stone (@JessicaStoneTV) October 15, 2015
Military leaders have 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 past 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid. In his remarks from the White House Thursday, Obama said that while Afghan forces have made progress, the security situation in the country remains fragile.
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Obama to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and 5,500 when he leaves office in 2017, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands off the conflict to a successor.
It will be up to Obama’s successor — the third U.S. commander in chief to oversee the war — to decide how to proceed from there.
“I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president,” Obama said, standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford.
U.S. officials have been hinting at the policy shift for weeks, noting that conditions on the ground in Afghanistan have changed since Obama’s initial decision on a sharper troop withdrawal timeline was made more than two years ago. The White House has also been buoyed by having a more reliable partner in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who succeeded the mercurial Hamid Karzai last year.
“The narrative that we’re leaving Afghanistan is self-defeating,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday during a speech at the Association of the U.S. Army. “We’re not, we can’t, and to do so would not be to take advantage of the success we’ve had to date.”
While officials said the Afghan policy had been under review for several months, Obama’s decision to leave more forces in Afghanistan than initially envisioned was reinforced when Taliban fighters took control of the key northern city of Kunduz late last month, prompting a protracted battle with Afghan forces on the ground, supported by U.S. airstrikes. During the fighting, a U.S. airstrike hit a hospital, killing 22 people, including 12 Doctors Without Borders staff and 10 patients.
Beyond the recent security troubles in Afghanistan, U.S. commanders have also expressed concern about Islamic State fighters moving into the country and gaining recruits from within the Taliban.
The troops staying in Afghanistan beyond next year will continue to focus on counterterrorism missions and training and advising Afghan security forces, the officials said. They will be based in Kabul and Bagram Air Field, as well as bases in Jalalabad and Kandahar.
The president’s decision to keep the U.S. military in Afghanistan beyond his tenure thrusts the conflict into the 2016 presidential race. The next president will become the third U.S. commander in chief to oversee the war, with the options of trying to bring it to a close, maintaining the presence as Obama left it or even ramping up U.S. involvement in the conflict.
Until now, Afghanistan has barely factored into campaign discussions on foreign policy and was not mentioned in Tuesday’s Democratic debate. The war was discussed only briefly in two Republican debates.
Shukria Barakzai, a high-profile Afghan lawmaker and women’s rights advocate, said she hoped her country’s security would “not become a tool between the Republicans and Democrats” in the election. “I hope the Afghanistan issue is taken seriously,” she said.
Officials said discussions on staying in Afghanistan longer began during Ghani’s visit to Washington in March. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, recently presented the president with a range of options calling for keeping more troops there based on his judgment of what it would take to sustain the Afghan army and minimize the chances of losing more ground.
Officials said NATO allies had expressed support for extending the troop presence in Afghanistan, but they did not outline any specific commitments from other nations.
Last week, during a meeting of defense ministers, Carter urged allies to remain flexible and consider abandoning their earlier timelines to cut troop levels in Afghanistan. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and other defense ministers were quick to agree, saying that the size of the force should be based on security conditions rather than a fixed timeline.
Upending the troop withdrawal decision, however, carries broad political implications.
Obama campaigned for the White House on a pledge to end America’s involvement in the two wars he inherited, Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, he’ll likely finish his presidency with troops back in both countries.
The president did withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, a moment he heralded as a promise kept to a war-weary nation. But the rise of the Islamic State drew the U.S. military back into Iraq last year to train and assist local security forces and launch airstrikes, a campaign Obama has said will likely last beyond his tenure.
Obama announced the end of the Afghan war with similar fanfare last spring, saying it was time for the U.S. to “turn the page” on more than a decade of deadly conflicts. But his remarks at the time also foreshadowed the difficulties he would face in fulfilling that pledge.
“Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said.
Reporting includes Associated Press wires
Jonah Blank on US troop’s extension to Afghan
CCTV was joined by with more insight as for US troop’s extension to Afghan by Jonah Blank. He’s a foreign policy expert and senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, which works to improve policy and decision-making for clients around the world.
Jonah Blank on US troop\'s extension to AfghanCCTV was joined by with more insight as for US troop's extension to Afghan by Jonah Blank. He's a foreign policy expert and senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, which works to improve policy and decision-making for clients around the world.
Obama to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2017
U.S. president Barack Obama reversed course in Afghanistan to pull out troops before he leaves office. Now the U.S. planed to keep more than five thousand soldiers in the country till 2017.
Two days after the Taliban pulled out of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, President Obama said he would leave U.S. troops there longer to continue counter terrorism efforts and to train the Afghan National Security forces, reported by Jessica Stone at the White House.
President Obama said”I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 2016. But I have decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases, including at Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south.”
The White House drew a distinction between its troop activity in Afghanistan and its troop draw down in Iraq.
“in the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help. And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals. We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation. And every single day, Afghan forces are out there fighting and dying to protect their country. They’re not looking for us to do it for them,” said President Obama.
Obama to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2017U.S. president Barack Obama reversed course in Afghanistan to pull out troops before he leaves office. Now the U.S. planed to keep more than five thousand soldiers in the country till 2017.
US-led fighting forces, no easy way out of Afghan
In 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama told Americans the news many wanted to hear. Elect him president, and he would end years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it appears clear that Obama will leave office in 2017 with U.S. fighting forces still entrenched in both nations.
CCTV’s Sean Callebs takes a look at the U.S. role in Afghanistan and why it’s so difficult to pull out.