President Barack Obama says 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after this year, but all could be withdrawn if Afghan leaders do not sign a joint security agreement.
The president laid out his plans Tuesday for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and bringing America's longest war to what he called a "responsible end." He told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that this is the year the United States will conclude its combat mission in Afghanistan and hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces.
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“At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners. By the end of 2015, we will have reduced that presence by roughly half.”
President Barack Obama is expected to shed more light on his foreign policy goals during a commencement address on Wednesday to U.S. Military Academy graduates in West Point, New York.
In a White House statement, Obama said it is time to turn the page on the last decade, in which so much of U.S. foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said less than 1,000 troops will be left in Afghanistan when he leaves office in January 2017.
RAND Corporation South Asia analyst Arturo Munoz said there is concern that the relatively quick draw-down could leave Afghanistan vulnerable.
“What people are arguing for is an advisory mission, a training mission and a special commando-type mission to do raids - you know, special forces - but not with a short cut-off,” said Munoz.
In a VOA interview, Munoz said Obama may have chosen to lay out his strategy in advance in order to give the Afghan government more time to react.
“I think what Obama is doing is he’s setting markers for the kind of continuing presence that we are going to have and he is telling them (the Afghan government) in advance ‘I don’t want to have a 10-year presence,’" said Munoz.
On Wednesday, two Americans were slightly injured when unidentified gunmen attacked their U.S. consulate vehicle.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul says the attack occurred as the vehicle traveled on a main road in the western Herat province.
Afghan officials say the attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle.
There are currently 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000.
President Obama said Afghans will assume more responsibility for their own security. The Americans who remain over the next two years will act as advisors.
"This is how wars end in the 21st century, not through signing ceremonies, but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and ultimately full responsibility," said Obama.
The deputy speaker of the Afghan senate, Rafiullah Gul Afghan, told VOA that 9,800 U.S. soldiers will not be enough to train Afghans in fighting terrorism, especially when 100,000 troops could not do the job.
He called for a new security agreement with the next Afghan president.