US president, however, makes it clear that current military support would end by Dec 2016
President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced to maintain the current level of troops – around 10,000 – through 2015, as he acceded to his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani’s request to slow down the drawdown of American troops as a measure to ease security transition in his country.
However, Obama made it clear that the current military support mission in Afghanistan would end by the conclusion of next year, 2016.
After a series of White House meetings with President Ashraf Ghani, Obama noted that Afghanistan still remains a “dangerous place” and with the new unity government in place in Kabul ( after Hamid Karzai’s exit) as well as the end to 13-year-old war, the US and Afghanistan had an opportunity to begin a “new chapter” in the bilateral relations.
Afghanistan will be a less dangerous place, when the Afghans are ready to assume full control of enforcing security because the American and international forces have to leave at some point in time.
Jointly addressing a press conference with President Obama, the new Afghan leader Ghani expressed the hope for success of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
Obama’s announcement means that there would be no more troops drawdown this year from the insurgency-hit country and that the U.S. would maintain a 9800 troops force level in Afghanistan through 2015.
Originally, Obama had planned to reduce the number of American troops to 5500 by the end of year, with a complete drawdown set by the end of 2016.
“That has not changed,” he said categorically of the plan to complete the military withdrawal by 2016-end.
Obama has promised to end the current military support mission – that began this January after the December 2014-end to the military combat launched in October 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks – would conclude by the time he leaves the White House upon completion of his second presidential term.
“Providing this additional timeframe — is well worth,” Obama said, explaining the rationale for keeping the current troops level in Afghanistan in consultation with his military commanders..
The U.S. would continue to advise and train Afghan security forces, and the goal is to ready 350,000 Afghan security forces.
Amid concerns about the future international engagement with Afghanistan, President Obama said the combat mission may have ended but the U.S. “commitment to Afghan people will endure.”
This flexibility reflects a reinvigorated partnership with Afghanistan, he said.
“We want the Afghan people — to be able to provide for their own security. At the start (of my term), we put additional troops and resources — broke that (Taliban) momentum—- we are continue to provide training and support (for a modern Afghan security force) – and building up opportunities for the Afghan people through economic development. We intend to work with the Afghan people for a long time.”
For his part, Afghan President Ghani, who was accompanied by Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah during the White House meetings, expressed a profound sense of gratitude to the Americans for their economic support and sacrifices of the U.S. soldiers in support of Afghanistan’s security and stability.
“The US considers Afghanistan a reliable partner, the commitments are considerable,” he said, welcoming the flexibility shown by President Obama.