Obama Rethinking Troop Levels In Afghanistan

| by Sheena Vasani
Obama visits troops in AfghanistanObama visits troops in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama is once again considering a decrease in troop levels after reports of increased violence in Afghanistan.

"As the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, it makes no strategic or military sense to continue the withdrawal of American forces," Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press on Jan. 28.

A strong critic of Obama’s national security policies, McCain added that Afghanistan was in a “crisis situation.”

Lt. Gen. John "Mick" Nicholson explained that while Afghan security forces have "more than held their own against the insurgency," they are not yet  "self-sustainable."

"The Taliban came at the Afghan security forces more intensely than perhaps we anticipated,” he added. "Because of that, we did not make the advances we ... thought we would make."

Obama originally planned to decrease the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of 2015 and to 1,000 by the end of 2016.

In the fall of 2015, Obama decided against the decrease, saying the situation was too fragile for so many troops to leave.

The Taliban reportedly responded aggressively the last time U.S. and other foreign troops left on schedule. The group is now getting stronger.

And while the Taliban is also fighting against ISIS, there are concerns the group could gain momentum in unstable Afghanistan.

As a response to these threats, Obama said he would keep the 9,800 or so Americans there for most of 2016, but they would not engage in offensive combat roles.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama stated in an October 2015 press release published on The White House website. “Our forces therefore remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions -- training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.

"Of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in Afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain, in support of these very focused missions."

The next president may be the one who ultimately makes the decision of whether to reduce the number of troops.

"[The Obama administration is] just hoping that things hold together and they won't have to face a decision on whether to actually implement the force reduction they're talking about until late summer, early fall, by which time the administration will be on its last legs," James Dobbins, Obama's former special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told AP.

Sources: APThe White House /​ Photo Credit: Pete Souza/The White House

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