By Debbie Gregory.
In a stark reversal from earlier pledges to end the war on his watch, President Obama halted the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan. The announcement that the United States will keep thousands of troops in the country indefinitely will prolong the American role in the 14-year war.
While Mr. Obama said he continued to oppose the idea of “endless war,” the decision follows months of appeals from military leaders to extend the draw down timeline. And it marks an acknowledgement that, despite claims Al Qaeda is on the run, militants continue to pose a serious threat to the country.
“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama.
Under the new plan, the administration will keep the current force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017, at a pace still to be determined by commanders.
The decision, which was reached after a lengthy review leaves the “how” and “when” of ending the war in Afghanistan to Obama’s successor.
The current American force in Afghanistan of 9,800 troops will remain in place through most of 2016 under the administration’s revised plans, before dropping to about 5,500 at the end of next year or in early 2017, Mr. Obama said. He called it a “modest but meaningful expansion of our presence” in that country.
According to the United Nations, the Taliban are now more widespread throughout Afghanistan than at any point since 2001. Just last month, the Taliban scored their biggest victory to date, seizing Kunduz and holding it for more than two weeks before pulling back.
President Obama conceded that despite our best efforts, and years of building the Afghan Army and police force, the Afghan forces are still not fully up to the task of protecting their country.