US to have 9,800 troops in Afghanistan post-2014: Obama

Updated - December 04, 2021 10:49 pm IST

Published - May 28, 2014 07:28 am IST - Washington

US President Barack Obama. File photo

US President Barack Obama. File photo

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the U.S. will keep 9,800 of its troops in Afghanistan this year and will withdraw them completely by 2016 as he admitted it was “time to turn the page” on more than a decade of military intervention in the war-torn country.

“We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected,” Mr. Obama said in the White House Rose Garden. “Now we’re finishing the job we’ve started.”

He said the current 32,000-strong U.S. deployment in Afghanistan will be reduced to around 9,800 by the start of 2015. The number would be further halved by the end of 2015 before eventually being scaled back to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance component by the end of 2016.

The U.S. combat operations would draw to a close at the end of this year, meaning U.S. troops would no longer patrol Afghan cities, towns or valleys from next year, Mr. Obama said.

However, any U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014 is subject to signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) by the new Afghan president.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to authorise the BSA that should be signed by Karzai’s successor to become effective.

Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- the two candidates in a June runoff election to become the next Afghan president -- have recently reiterated their intentions to sign the agreement quickly if elected.

“So I’m hopeful we can get this done.

“The bottom line is, it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Mr. Obama said.

His announcement came a day after his unannounced trip to Afghanistan on the eve of the memorial day, as he said “future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans themselves”.

“We have to recognise Afghanistan will not be a perfect place,” he said. “And it is not America’s responsibility to make it one. The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”

The U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 will train Afghan forces and support counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda remnants, Mr. Obama said, adding that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would herald a “new chapter in American foreign policy”.

“(It) will allow us to redirect some of the resources saved by ending these wars to respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism.

“I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said.

The U.S. and NATO plan to withdraw most of their forces ahead of a year-end deadline. Mr. Obama wants to keep a small number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train Afghan security forces and support counterterrorism missions.

Currently, the U.S. military has 32,000 troops for the military intervention that started 13 years ago.

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