US Troops In Afghanistan Will Not Be Reduced – Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that no reduction of the current 9,800 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan will occur through the end of 2015.

Obama
Obama
Noting that Afghanistan “remains a dangerous place”, Obama said at a joint press conference with visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that given the upcoming spring offensive season with Afghan militants, it is worthwhile to grant flexibility requested by Ghani in terms of the U.S. drawdown timeline.
“It is my judgment. It is the judgment of General Campbell and others who are on the ground, that providing this additional time frame during this fighting season for us to be able to help the Afghan security force succeed, is well worth it,” Obama said.
Obama said the flexibility also reflected “reinvigorated partnership” with Afghanistan under the leadership of Ghani, who replaced Afghan former president Hamid Karzai last September and was seen by many as more cooperative than his predecessor.
Shortly after starting his presidency, Ghani signed a bilateral security agreement with the United States to allow U.S. troops to remain in the country. Karzai had long refused to sign the agreement and often publicly called the United States the main problem in Afghanistan in his final years in office.
Ghani said the flexibility granted in terms of the U.S. military drawdown timeline through 2015 was vital for his nation’s reform efforts and security situation.
“Much binds us together and the flexibility that has been provided for 2015 will be used to accelerate reforms, to ensure that the Afghan national security forces are much better led, equipped, trained and are focused on the fundamental mission,” said Ghani at the joint press conference with Obama.
Currently, the number of Afghan national security forces stood at around 330,000 and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Monday that the Obama administration is seeking funding to ensure Afghan troops are maintained at its targeted peak level of 352,000 through 2017.
Obama had previously planned to reduce the current level of 9, 800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to around 5,500 by the end of 2015 and withdraw all troops by the end of 2016 when his presidency comes to an end.
However, Ghani has made clear on many occasions before his first official visit to Washington after taking office last September that such a timeline for a U.S. army withdrawal would jeopardize the security situation on the ground.
Prior to his U.S. visit, he had also repeatedly told U.S. media that the extremist group Islamic State was targeting Afghanistan and gaining influence inside the country.
Meanwhile, Obama said drawdown timeline through 2016 would be decided later this year.
“The specific trajectory of the 2016 drawdown will be established later this year to enable our final consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016,” said Obama.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday left open the possibility of leaving about 1,000 to 1,500 troops in Afghanistan for protection purpose.
“The President does envision a scenario where the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by early 2017 reflects the need to protect the substantial diplomatic presence that the United States will maintain in Afghanistan,” Earnest told reporters in the daily briefing. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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