Today, President Obama announced that he will keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan through the rest of his presidency into 2017. This contradicts his earlier ambition of only having 1,000 troops in Kabul during an address on the matter in 2014.
“If they were to fail, they would endanger the security of us all,” Obama said. “We’ve made an enormous investment in a stable Afghanistan…This modest but meaningful extension of our progress—while sticking to our current, narrow missions—can make a real difference.”
Obama’s new plan comes after months of reviewing options with Afghan leaders including President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. national security and commanders on the ground.
There are currently 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and they will remain in the country for the majority of 2016. The decision to keep a larger U.S. military presence is indicative of the U.S.’s need to have a larger sway in Afghanistan’s political and military strategies, in training for Afghan forces and in executing counterterrorism operations. It also represents the serious and consistent threat that the Taliban has posed in launching deadly attacks in rural and urban areas.
In addition to keeping troops in the field, Obama will leave drones and Special Operations forces as a front to the al-Qaeda. Having a larger set of troops in Afghanistan will now cost about $15 billion, meaning approximately $5 billion more than the 1,000 troop force Obama previously slated to occupy Kabul.
President Ghani is in support of the prolonged US military presence, as he and other Afghan leaders agree that they still need help from allies. Only weeks prior to today’s announcement, Afghanistan’s military was defeated by the Taliban in the city of Kunduz. This was the first, largest victory for the extremist group since the war began in 2001.
Afghanistan is still a highly dangerous and poor country despite 14 years of military help from NATO countries. The al-Qaeda are now supposedly in remote mountain regions bordering Pakistan as well as big cities like Qalat and Ghazni in the South.
Obama expressed his gratitude for Afghanis that have been “bravely and tenaciously” fighting the infamous militant group and insisted that he is not deterred by the change of plans.
“This decision is not disappointing…Continually, my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for Afghanistan to succeed while we’re still making sure to meet our core missions.
Obama noted that his focus is on making adjustments on the ground whenever needed, and conceded that he will likely have to adjust his plans again for U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in the future.
See the video below and skip to 31:28 to see Obama’s address on America’s military presence in Afghanistan at the White House from earlier today.
[SOURCE: The Washington Post]