Barack Obama’s administration has decided to halt complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Instead, the military will continue to have an active presence in the region and help the local administration against the rising insurgency.
American President Barack Obama, who promised that he would pull out all American military forces save for a few to safeguard the embassy, appears to have backtracked on his intentions. His administration announced that the entirety of the American troops present in Afghanistan will stay there not just while Obama is in office and in 2016, they will continue to have an active presence till 2017, after which the number will reduce, but only marginally.
The president announced his decision today to prolong the active presence of American troops and continue to play a crucial role in a war that has ravaged the country for more than 14 years.
The president had originally planned to pull out all but a small, embassy-based U.S. military presence by the end of next year, reported the Guardian. However, Obama’s administration changed its mind about bringing back all the American troops. The current American force in Afghanistan stands at 9,800. The number will remain unchanged for almost two more years before seeing any reduction.
Even after Obama’s official term has ended, the number of troops stationed in the country will drop to 5,500. The reduction is expected to happen at the end of 2016 or in the starting months of 2017, indicated senior administration officials connected with the matter, reported the New York Times.
Why is Barack Obama backtracking on his promise to bring back all the troops? The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly in the past year. It’s apparent that the country’s defense forces are unable to sustain their battle against the Taliban. Obama has acknowledged the fact that the Afghan security forces are still not ready to successfully hold off the Taliban.
Though the Islamic State and the Taliban aren’t on friendly terms, the latter is still a formidable foe for Afghanistan’s current administration. Moreover, its powers have been growing and so have its tactics to overthrow the current Afghan regime. The level of insurgency has been growing despite the efforts by Afghan’s security forces. The insurgents have now forcibly occupied more parts of the country than at any point in the last 14 years. Last month, the Taliban forces seized Kunduz and have been successful in repelling any efforts by Afghanistan to recapture the northern city.
Instead of pulling out troops completely from Afghanistan, the American military will take on the additional role of training and advising Afghan forces in counterinsurgency operations. Others in the battalion will conduct parallel missions to flush out Al Qaeda fighters and militants from the Islamic State who might be waiting for the opportunity to strike a weaker Afghanistan. Incidentally, intelligence operatives have warned about terrorist groups that have been waiting for Afghanistan to be abandoned by the American troops to launch a huge coordinated strike.
American troops will continue their presence at Bagram Air Field to the north of Kabul, the main American hub in Afghanistan, and at bases outside Kandahar in the country’s south and Jalalabad in the east. All these regions have proven to be critical for counterterrorism operations. American troops have been quite successful in deploying unmanned drones with and without strike capabilities, which has significantly helped Afghanistan to proactively protect their territory.
Interestingly, Congress has been forcing the Obama administration to pull out half of the troops and eventually leave only about 1,000 soldiers to guard the heavily fortified embassy. However, the military and the CIA have always stressed the need to have American troops on Afghanistan’s soil. It seems like Obama has listened to those who are at the frontline and decided it may not be in the best interest of anyone to pursue the active withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
[Image Credit | Noorullah Shirzada, Scott Olson, Mark Wilson / Getty Images]