US President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that he will maintain about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan into 2017 through the end of his administration, slowing the planned drawdown of the US military presence in the country.
Obama said the security situation in Afghanistan remains “precarious” and the country’s security forces are still “not as strong as they need to be”.
His original plan was to draw down US troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of this year, Xinhua news agency reported.
“My decision today also sends a message to the Taliban and all those who have opposed Afghanistan’s progress,” the US president said in a televised address at the White House. “You have now been waging war against the Afghan people for many years. You’ve been unable to prevail.”
Obama said the troops will remain focused on narrow missions of supporting Afghan forces and going after terrorists.
“Maintaining our forces at this specific level, based on our assessment of the security conditions and the strength of Afghan forces, will allow us to continue to provide tailored support to help Afghan forces continue to improve,” he said.
The US President said the new decision was based on recommendation of US military leaders and following extensive consultations with his national security team, as well as the Congress, the Afghan government and international partners.
He added that Wednesday’s decision best positions his successor to make future decisions about US presence in Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for continued progress in Afghanistan as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” he said.