US to delay withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
After months of discussion with Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah, and US military commanders, Barack Obama has decided to delay the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Obama, who had vowed to end US involvement in Afghanistan before the end of his term, is set to announce his decision at 11 am eastern time from the White House.
After the 9/11 attacks in September 2001, USA offcially launched military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001. According to CNN reports, by November 2001, 1300 US troops had been deployed in Afghanistan, in what was to be a 14 year long conflict. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force was deployed in January 2002, marking the beginnings of a long-drawn war.
US troops in Afghanistan since 2001 has been greatly varied. Starting off with an initial deployment of 1,300 troops in 2001, the number reached 100,000 in 2010 when the fighting intensified, and reverted to 9,800 as of 2015.
The estimated costs of maintaining the currently deployed 9,800 United States troops in Afghanistan goes up to rough $14.6 billion annually, a senior administration official said.
Obama's decision will see the United States maintain its current troop levels in Afghanistan throughout most of 2016. Most of the 9,800 US troops posted in Afghanistan are engaged in training roles, apart from special forces on the ground with the Afghan army. The number of US troops in Afghanistan is set to drop to 5,500 in 2017 as Obama prepares to leave office.
US officials stated that US troops posted in Afghanistan would serve two purposes- firstly, to hunt down remnants of Al Qaeda forces, and secondly, to train and equip the Afghan army. The recent Taliban takeover of Kunduz, the biggest Taliban military victory since 2001, could be another possible reason. Other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan are likely to mirror the US decision.
Obama's decision to delay the withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan to 2017 transfers to conflict to the 2016 presidential race. The next US President will be the third commander-in-chief to oversee the 14 year long Afghan war.