Reversing his policy on Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama announced he will prolong the 14-year-old US military engagement there, effectively handing off the task of pulling out troops to his successor, Reuters reported.
Calling it a “modest but meaningful” adjustment to winding down the American presence in Afghanistan, Obama said Thursday that Afghan forces were not yet as strong as they needed to be given a “very fragile” security situation.
He said the United States will maintain a force of 9,800 throughout most of next.
Obama had previously aimed to withdraw all but a small US embassy-based force in the capital, Kabul, before he leaves office in January 2017.
Under the new plan, troops will be drawn down to 5,500 starting some time in 2017 and will be based in four locations — Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
US troops will remain out of combat roles, focused on training and advising Afghan forces, Obama said.
The president has been under pressure from his military advisers, Republicans and a bipartisan group of national security experts to keep US forces in Afghanistan, particularly as Afghan forces have struggled under attacks by Taliban militants, who briefly took over the northern city of Kunduz.
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