“As you are all well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war”, said Obama, who rose to office in 2008 on promises to end America’s wars in the Middle East, but has sent troops back to Iraq to battle Islamic State and will leave office with troops there and in Afghanistan.
Echoing Obama, Carter said counterterrorism would be a part of the “enduring mission” in Afghanistan.
Still, the US just can’t seem to get out of Afghanistan. “Our troops are needed in that region”.
Recent Taliban offensives, most spectacularly in Kunduz in the north, made painfully obvious the inability of Afghan forces to enforce security.
Facing a similar situation in Afghanistan, Obama has decided not to follow a similar course.
“It is past time for Afghanistan’s leaders to be in charge of their own security and their own country”.
Late last month, Taliban fighters briefly took over Kunduz before it was driven out from the strategic northern city by Afghan forces, backed by USA air strikes.
Calling the plan “the right thing to do”, Obama acknowledged “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be”.
Under previous plans, the United States would have drawn down its troop numbers by the end of 2016 from about 10,000 now, to about 1,000.
Obama stressed the troops would not have a combat role, and would instead maintain their focus on training and counter-terrorism.
But the administration was also careful not to set any grand goals for what another year of progress would look like.
Robinette is an expert on military policy and a veteran of two USA wars. But he said the mission in Afghanistan had the benefit of a clear objective, a supportive government and legal agreements that protect US forces – three factors not present in Iraq.
So this might not work?
“No military in history has ever held Afghanistan”. “Yet given what’s at stake in Afghanistan and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats, and the fact that we have an worldwide coalition, I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort”. He suggested that the USA has delved into the training mission as an “apolitical process of giving a military that doesn’t have enough stuff more stuff”.
“There has been a long series of these actually”, Biddle said in an interview. “As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again”, he said.
In the last few years, as USA forces have shifted the combat role nearly entirely to the Afghans, the Taliban have made new gains.
US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invaded Afghanistan in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ousting the Taliban government from Kabul.
What else is weighing on Obama’s decision?
Republicans have blamed Obama’s decision to withdraw all USA troops from Iraq in late 2011 for creating a vacuum that allowed the Islamic State to thrive. ISIS has also established a presence in the country and recently engaged in fights with the Taliban.
So is the U.S.’s decision to maintain a larger presence in Afghanistan a political one?
The president said he was not disappointed by the decision.
Earnest had an answer to that. “It’s a long journey for military families”.
Obama is certainly hoping his decision will pave the way for an end to the conflict. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home.
The U.S troop level peaked at around 100,000 after US forces ousted the Taliban government from Kabul in 2001.
Among the bloodiest single incidents, on August 22, 2008, 90 civilians were killed in a USA bombing in the west of the country.
The president’s decision to keep the US military in Afghanistan beyond his tenure thrusts the conflict into the 2016 presidential race.