The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will not happen any time soon, announced the US President Barack Obama on Thursday evening. This is a reversal from an earlier policy which intended to withdraw troops before Obama’s tenure ended in January 2017.
“I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 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,” declared Obama.
The two reasons given by the US President for the furtherance of military intervention are “training Afghan forces and going after al Qaeda.”
Obama had initially promised to withdraw all but a small US-embassy based force in Kabul, before his term ended. The US has gone back on its promise and will now hand over the task of pulling troops to his successor.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has backed Obama’s decision to retain troops in Afghanistan.
“We’re adjusting our presence, based on conditions on the ground, to give the United States and our allies the capability to sustain a robust counter-terrorism platform,” assured Carter.
“This will keep Americans safer back home” Carter added in guarantee of extending military intervention in Afghanistan.
The US led coalition in Afghanistan ended its battle after 13 years of war in 2014, and Afghan troops have since been in charge of the country’s security, with help from US and NATO troops. Not a year has passed by before Taliban briefly took over the northern city of Kunduz.
Obama acknowledged that militants are still capable of launching deadly attacks on cities including Kabul and that the Afghan troops are not prepared to face the assault.
US troops will remain out of combat roles, training and advising Afghan forces. This, Obama said will ensure that al Qaeda remnants will not pose a threat to US security.
The US President said his decision followed months of deliberations with Afghanistan’s leaders, Pentagon officials, field commanders and White House advisors.
Notably, Obama will not be fulfilling his election agenda of winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he inherited when he first took office in 2009.
And significantly, Obama’s decision to withdraw military stay in Afghanistan has faced severe criticism from the Republicans. Republicans believe that withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will pose security threats on the US.
(With inputs from agencies)