Troops to stay one year later than expected
In a scheduled speech later today, President Obama is expected to announce a new timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Close advisors to the president have indicated that 9,800 troops will stay behind in Afghanistan while the administration watches over the Afghan presidential election.
The previous timetable for withdrawal was December 2014. The remaining 9,800 troops will now stay in Afghanistan till 2015, with half staying till 2016 to work with the Kabul police. The remaining troops are expected to continue the U.S. counter-terrorism policies and to train the Aghan military. While the main force of the Al Qaeda network has been demolished, there are still bands of Al Qaeda fighting throughout Afghanistan and much of the Middle East and Africa. A special operations unit will be assigned to specifically target these last remaining fighters.
There are currently 32,800 troops in Afghanistan while there are 382,000 Afghani police/military. After the withdrawal the U.S. will continue to spend $4 billion a year between 2015 and 2017 to help bolster the Afghani security forces. During a surprise trip to Afghanistan last week, Obama stated, “We want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win. And we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used to launch an attack against our country.”
The war in Afghanistan has now lasted nearly 13 years. Much of the caution for exiting the war has been in regards to the Afghan election. The current president, Hamad Karzai, has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement which would set the terms for troop size and withdrawal. Karzai’s term ends this year. Two new candidates have both stated that they will work with the U.S. and sign the security agreement. A runoff election is being held on June 14. The U.S. will wait out Karzai and start anew with a new Afghan president. The majority of U.S. troops will begin leaving Afghanistan after this election and throughout the end of 2014.