Afghan forces guarded Kunduz on Thursday, two days
after a Taliban takeover of the city ended, as residents
await food donations. Getty Images
New program will keep U.S. at war beyond his presidency
President Barack Obama said Thursday he was dropping plans to withdraw nearly all American troops from Afghanistan, reversing his long-held intention to exit the conflict before the end of his administration.
Mr. Obama said the U.S. will maintain the current American force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and keep at least 5,500 U.S. troops in the country after he leaves office in January 2017.
His announcement followed mounting pressure at home and abroad to change the U.S. strategy in response to escalating insurgent violence, including an assault by Taliban militants who temporarily seized control last month of the northern city of Kunduz, and a deeply uneven performance by Afghan forces.
Concerns that a steeper U.S. withdrawal would make Afghanistan vulnerable to extremists, as happened in Iraq with Islamic State militants after the U.S. drawdown there in 2011, also influenced Mr. Obama’s decision.
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The new plan reflects the latest in a series of difficulties Mr. Obama has encountered in trying to follow through on his earliest campaign promises before leaving office.
“I know many of you have grown weary of this conflict,” Mr. Obama said, addressing Americans from the White House. But he added: “I’m firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.”
Mr. Obama’s previous plan, in place since last year, called for steadily withdrawing the 9,800 U.S. troops through 2016 and leaving about 1,000 at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by the time his term ends.
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