Contrary to the promise made to ending the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands over the conflict off to his successor, president Obama will keep 5,500 US troops in Afghanistan after leaving office in 2017.
The leaders of the military argued for months that the Afghans needed assistance to combat the resolved Taliban and hold on to the gains made. Over the last 14 years of american bloodshed and billions of dollars in the aid, this was believed to have prompted the president in changing his plans.
The announcement of the change by the president was to be made on thursday morning from the White House. Officials pointed out that the president will outline plans to maintain the current force of 9,900 troops in Afghanistan through most of the year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017, at a rate yet to be determined by the commanders.
The policy shift has been on the horizon for weeks with US officials hinting about the change of plans due to the present situation on ground in Afghanistan and since the initial president’s decision to make a sharper troop withdrawal timeline from the region was made more than two years ago.
The US government has also been excited by having a more reliable partner in the new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani who succeeded the mercurial Hamid Karzai last year.
“The narrative that we’re leaving Afghanistan is self-defeating,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday during a speech at the Association of the U.S. Army. “We’re not, we can’t and to do so would not be to take advantage of the success we’ve had to date.”
The U-turn in Obama decision to maintain the steady influx of troops in the afghan territory was due to the advent of the Taliban forces taking control of a major northern city of Kunduz last month, prompting a protracted battle with afghan forces on ground and US airforces supporting with airstrikes. During the fighting a rather unfortunate incident occured whereby a US airstrike hit a hospital, killing 22 people, including 12 doctors and 10 patients.
The plan to keep american troops in Afghanistan is to advice and train the afghan forces in counter terrorism and security.
Beyond the problems in Afghnistan the US forces also express concerns about the Islamic State moving into the country.
The president’s decision to keep the U.S. military in Afghanistan beyond his tenure thrusts the conflict into the 2016 presidential race. The next president will become the third U.S. commander-in-chief to oversee the war and try to bring it to a close.
The president did withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, a moment he heralded as a promise kept to a war-weary nation. But the rise of the Islamic State drew the U.S.military back into Iraq last year to train and assist local security forces and launch airstrikes, a campaign Obama has said will likely last beyond his tenure.
Obama announced the end of the Afghan war with similar fanfare last spring, saying it was time for the U.S. to “turn the page” on more than a decade of deadly conflicts. But his remarks at the time also foreshadowed the difficulties he would face in fulfilling that pledge.
“Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said.
Source : Fox News