The White House is announcing that the US will be keeping more troops in Afghanistan past 2016 that previously stated. The new plan is to have 5,500 US troops in country when the next president, whoever that is, takes office in January 2017. They will be stationed in Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Throughout most of 2016, the number will be around 9,800.
U.S Keeps More Troops: Mainly For Anti-terrorism Efforts
President Obama had previously wanted to reduce US troop levels to 1,100 or so, mainly to guard the US embassy. That is still a large force for a diplomatic mission, but the higher levels now being announced enables the US to undertake anti-terrorist activities as well as protect US diplomats.
Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan at the Washington Post have reported “The post-2016 force would still be focused on training and advising the Afghan army, with a special emphasis on its elite counterterror forces. The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al-Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States.”
That said, the BBC is citing a National Security Council statement that reads in part “This announcement in no way changes the fact that our combat mission in Afghanistan has ended, and we will continue to undertake only two narrow missions: counterterrorism and training, advising, and assisting our Afghan partners.”
U.S Change Of Plans: Taliban Gaining A Strong Foothold In Afghani Countryside
Image Source: Newsweek
US officials at the White House and the Pentagon have discussed a slower withdrawal from Afghanistan since March, when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah visited Washington.
An official speaking to Reuters anonymously in advance of the formal announcement stated, “”The Afghan government is very comfortable with this commitment. They’ve been indicating a desire for this commitment for some time.”
Jaffe and Ryan’s report confirmed this, “It’s very positive in light of the continued problems that this region is facing,” said Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy, a presidential candidate in 2014, who is now allied with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “Our security have shown the will and capability to fight, but we still need the support of our allies, especially the United States.”
Since it has been a point of discussion for that long, the move is not in direct response to the Taliban’s recent success in taking, for a brief time, the city of Kunduz, in Afghanistan’s north. However, the resurgence of the Taliban in the country as well as the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, sometimes called ISIL, replacing “Syria” with “the Levant”) gaining a foothold there has prompted Washington to reconsider the initial plan.
“Certainly we’re watching and seeing how the Afghan security forces engage quite tenaciously in the fight in Kunduz,” Reuters was told.
The larger 5,500-man force will cost the US $15 billion a year, whereas the original plans 1,100 force was budgeted at $10 billion.