Obama Vision of "Ending" Afghan War Includes 10,000 Troops
Despite repeated calls to end the war completely, president lays out plan for continued US presence well beyond 2014
In comments made Tuesday afternoon at the White House, President Obama laid out his plan to draw down the number of occupying forces in Afghanistan, indicating that his vision of succcess in terms of U.S. foreign policy is that in 2015, nearly ten thousand U.S. troops would remain "in harms way" overseas.
According to President Obama, the number of troops will be cut from its current level of 32,000 to 9,800 by 2015.
"This is how war ends in the 21st century," the president said, adding that after the protracted war, "Afghanistan will not be a perfect place."
Anti-war advocates were quick to criticize Obama's plan to extend even further what is already the nation's longest-running war.
"Americans are tired of war. It’s time for the longest U.S. war in history to be over. Instead, the Obama Administration wants to leave nearly 10,000 troops and untold contractors in Afghanistan after the end of year costing billions of dollars,” observed Paul Kawika Martin, political director of grassroots peace organization Peace Action, in a statement ahead of the official announcement. The group cited polling which has repeatedly shown that Americans think the war in Afghanistan is a "mistake."
And The Nation's George Zornick tweeted:
This has been known for a while, but: don't believe Obama when he says he's ending war in Afghanistan. He's not. https://t.co/ZRfkbMfPI5— George Zornick (@gzornick) May 27, 2014
"Over the course of next year, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan," AP reported ahead of the announcement, after an anonymous senior official leaked the contours of Obama's plan. "Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul."
During the speech, Obama explained that U.S. forces will be deployed to train Afghan forces and support in terror missions against the remnants of Al Qaeda.
The news comes two days after the president paid a surprise visit to troops stationed at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, during which he alluded to the continued presence of the U.S. in the country.
Obama's plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing the Bilateral Security Agreement, which current president Hamid Karzai has refused to sign. On June 14, Afghans will vote in the second round of presidential elections, and U.S. officials say they are "confident" that Karzai's successor will sign the agreement. The two front runners, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have both vowed to sign the BSA if elected.