WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Thursday announced maintaining the current level of US forces in Afghanistan till 2017 and leaving at least half of the troops after that while running various military bases.
Addressing the media on Thursday, Obama highlighted his country’s gains and acknowledged the sacrifices of American troops in Afghanistan, as well as cooperation from Pakistan in the war on terror.
He declared that in his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif later this month, he would ask Pakistan to keep pressure on the Taliban to shun violence.
Obama emphasised that the US troops’ mission in Afghanistan would remain the same, which was to train and assist the Afghan forces and help in counterterrorism operations. “As commander-in-chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” he declared.
Obama said his administration would keep supporting the Afghan government. He said he had considered American support to the Afghan-led reconciliation process and “it should be clear to the Taliban and all who oppose Afghanistan’s progress, the only real way to achieve the full drawdown of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement with the Afghan government.
“Likewise, sanctuaries forthe Taliban and other terrorists must end,” Obama said, adding that he’ll host Nawaz and urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and do their part in pursuit of the peace that the Afghans deserved.
The decision to maintain 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for another year comes after discussions with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and continuous consultation with the US military commanders, Obama said.
According to the new strategy, the number of US troops in Afghanistan would drop to 5,500 by early 2017. They would be based in the Afghan capital of Kabul, as well as in military installations in Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
This is the second drawdown delay announced by the US president this year. In March, Obama said he planned to reduce the US forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 personnel by the end of this year, and then to an “embassy-only” presence by the end of 2016.
“Instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops in a small number of bases including Bagram, Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south,” Obama said.
He added that “these bases would give the US presence and the reach that these forces require to achieve their mission – which is to continue to root out remnants of al-Qaeda as well as train and equip Afghan security forces.”
“Afghanistan is the key piece to the network of counterterrorism partnerships that we need from South Asia to Africa to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our home,” he said.
The estimated annual cost of maintaining current the US force level in Afghanistan is $14.6 billion, a senior administration official said told CNN.
AFP adds from Kabul: The Taliban Thursday said their forces were prepared to keep fighting until American troops pull out of Afghanistan, after US officials said they would extend their military presence in the country beyond 2016.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the insurgents would continue to fight on and prompt US forces to exit Afghanistan. “When the attacks continue to mount on the occupiers and when they see they have to spend more money in their meaningless war, they will be forced to change their oppressive policy. Our jihad will continue until the last occupier is expelled,” the spokesman told AFP.
“They were the ones who decided to invade Afghanistan. But it will be us who decide when they leave,” he added. Recent intense fighting has underscored the continued role of American
troops in training the still fledgling Afghan forces in vital counterterror operations. Two weeks ago the Taliban scored their biggest military victory since the 2001 US-led invasion, capturing the city of Kunduz.Wajid Ali Syed, "US army to stay in Afghanistan till 2017: Obama," The News. 2015-10-16.
Keywords: Social sciences , Political leaders , Regional disparities , US troops , American forces , Political settlement , Taliban , Zabiullah Mujahid , Barack Obama , Nawaz Sharif , Abdullah Abdullah , Afghanistan , America , CNN , US