President Barack Obama announced that some U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan throughout 2016 and beyond. This is a change in the president’s original plan, which entailed drawing down the majority of those currently stationed in Afghanistan by January 2017 (video below).
Obama made the announcement in the Roosevelt Room on Oct. 15, with Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. military leaders by his side. The plan to draw back U.S. forces from Afghanistan has changed; the current force of 9,800 will remain as of now until being drawn down to 5,500 in 2017, The Hill reports.
“As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war,” said Obama. “Given what’s at stake in Afghanistan … I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.”
The commander in chief admitted that the current Afghanistan forces alone cannot defend the country against insurgent forces and that retreating during his presidency could result in the region becoming another hotbed for terrorism, according the The New York Times.
"While America's combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and and its people endures," Obama said. "As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again."
Lasting 14 years and likely to continue for years to come, Afghanistan has been America’s longest war, according to CNN.
The decision to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been influenced by a resurgent Taliban as well as President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan pleading for support and the cost of a comprehensive withdrawal, the New York Times reports.
The Taliban captured the city of Kunduz in early October, scoring its biggest military victory since 2001. Meanwhile, military leaders and Congress members involved in Iraq see the newly elected Ghani as a much more helpful partner against terrorism than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai. Lastly, the difference between maintaining a presence with 5,500 troops and only keeping a small number to protect the U.S. embassy was $14.6 billion to $10 billion a year, too small to be considered worth the shrinking of forces.
“I do not send you into harm’s way lightly,” Obama said to the U.S. troops who will remain in Afghanistan. “But as your commander in chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests.”
Retired Lt. Col. Rick Crancona says that this extension is “kicking this can down the road,” CNN reports.
"This is this administration pushing this off to the next administration because the next time they have to make this decision, it will be a different president in the White House.”