5,500 troops to stay in Afghanistan: Obama
"As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again," Obama said. "Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be."
The president made the announcement in the White House alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, abc news reported.
Senior administration officials had told ABC News 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan by the end of next year. The United States will keep 9,800 troops in the country through most of 2015.
It’s a significant reversal for the president, who sees “ending two wars” as one of his greatest achievements. The president had planned to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2015 except those needed to protect the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
In 2014, the president announced the U.S. mission in Afghanistan would decrease from 9,800 troops to 1,000 by the end of 2016.
The troops will be stationed in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kabul and Bagram. The officials would not detail a timeframe for when the force level will decrease from 9800 to 5500, saying it is a decision that will be made in consultation with commanders on the ground and allies.
The troops will be tasked with conducting two non-combat missions – a counter-terrorism mission to go after Al Qaeda and threats to the homeland and to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The decision comes after a months long comprehensive review that begin this past spring and included conversations between President Obama, Afghan President Ghani, and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah.
While the announcement coincides with the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz last month, the plan to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan was being considered and reviewed for months, the senior administration officials said.
During congressional testimony last week, Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recommended leaving more than the 1,000 troops after 2016 in order to adequately train Afghan security forces and focus on counter-terrorism efforts.
This new plan is estimated to cost $14.6 million in 2017, compared to the $10 million projected for the president’s previous proposal.
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