Obama announces U.S. will slow troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. will slow its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, maintaining 9,800 troops in the country through the end of 2015 instead of cutting the number by about half as originally planned.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. will slow its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, maintaining 9,800 troops in the country through the end of 2015 instead of cutting the number by about half as originally planned.

“Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place,” Obama said in explaining his decision at a press conference after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s first visit to the White House since his election six months ago. Obama added that the size of the U.S. troop presence for 2016 will be decided later this year.

Ghani had asked Obama to slow the withdrawal because Afghan security forces are bracing for a tough spring fighting season and are also contending with Islamic State fighters looking to recruit on their soil.

The original plan was to cut the U.S. force to 5,500 by the end of this year.

Obama said he still intends to complete the drawdown by the end of 2016 and that the U.S. transition out of a combat role has not changed.

“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help Afghan security forces succeed so we don’t have to go back,” Obama said. He said he and the U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have concluded the extra time in the country “is well worth it.”

Ghani thanked American servicemen and women and civilian contractors. “I’d also like to thank the American taxpayer for his and her hard-earned dollars,” he said.

“Tragedy brought us together; interests now unite us,” Ghani said.

He said the slower U.S. troop withdrawal “will be used to accelerate reforms, to ensure that the Afghan National Security Forces are much better led, equipped, trained and are focused on their fundamental mission. He added that he was pleased to say that ”the departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap or collapse that was often anticipated.“

In Washington this week, Ghani is making his case that he’s a reliable partner worthy of American support, despite his fractured government and a litany of problems still rampant in Afghanistan’s military — illiteracy, drug abuse and desertions, to name a few.

For Obama, Ghani represents the last, best hope to make good on the president’s promise to end America’s longest war by the time he leaves office, keeping just a thousand or so troops at the embassy to co-ordinate security. Ghani predecessor Hamid Karzai’s relationship with the White House was increasingly dysfunctional, and if the dealings with Ghani don’t turn out better, Obama risks leaving Afghanistan still vulnerable to the kinds of violent extremist groups that operated with impunity until 14 years ago, when the U.S. attacked after the Sept. 11,2001 terror strikes against the U.S..

Also at stake: the future of U.S. bases in Jalalabad and in Kandahar, where the Taliban had their capital until 2001. U.S. military leaders have seemed receptive to Ghani’s request that those bases stay open as long as possible.

Drawing a contrast with his predecessor, Ghani has taken pains on his U.S. visit to display gratitude for U.S. sacrifices in Afghanistan that the White House found lacking from Karzai. He began his trip by explicitly thanking the U.S. for its support. And on Tuesday morning, Ghani joined Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Vice-President Joe Biden in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Further underscoring the fragile security situation, gunmen killed at least 13 people overnight during a midnight assault on a highway near Taliban-held territory in eastern Afghanistan, although no group immediately claimed responsibility. And elsewhere in Afghanistan, a suspected U.S. drone strike near the border with Pakistan killed at least nine militants from a Pakistani terror group, intelligence officials in Pakistan said.

Just Posted

Climate change’s impact on outdoor hockey discussed in Red Deer

Red Deer River Watershed Alliance held a forum Friday at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

Collision between Red Deer transit bus and truck investigated by RCMP

No one on bus was hurt, truck driver had minor injuries

Eckville man facing about 80 child sexual exploitation charges in court

More than half a million photos and videos found on electronic devices

Good-bye ice and snow, hello potholes on Red Deer roads

City workers will be spending 20 hours a day on various road repairs

Red Deer woman wins $1 million in lottery

A Red Deer woman spent $5 on a lottery ticket and became… Continue reading

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Puddle splashing: A rite of spring

Is there anything more fun than driving through water-filled potholes in the… Continue reading

Special evaluations can help seniors cope with cancer care

Before she could start breast cancer treatment, Nancy Simpson had to walk… Continue reading

Home renovator Mike Holmes oversees reno for paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player

AIRDRIE, Alta. — One of Canada’s most recognizable home renovators has acted… Continue reading

The endless war against invasive species

Group looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Flyers, Blackhawks, Sabres and Lightning to Europe in ‘19-20

Jakub Voracek was psyched at the mere suggestion the Philadelphia Flyers might… Continue reading

Danish receiver Nielsen looking to defy the odds again, this time at CFL combine

TORONTO — He’s coming to the CFL’s national combine as a definite… Continue reading

Mom with kids on YouTube channel suspected of child abuse

MARICOPA, Ariz. — A woman who operated a popular YouTube channel featuring… Continue reading

Most Read