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Officials: Obama Weighs Slower Afghan Troop Drawdown

  • Mary Alice Salinas

FILE - President Ashraf Ghani and an Afghan delegation will visit the White House on Tuesday during a four-day trip to the U.S.

FILE - President Ashraf Ghani and an Afghan delegation will visit the White House on Tuesday during a four-day trip to the U.S.

Top U.S. officials say the Obama administration, during a visit next week by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, will discuss keeping more troops in Afghanistan than originally planned.

The Obama administration had planned to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from nearly 10,000 to just over 5,500 by the end of the year. But U.S. officials said Friday that President Barack Obama was considering slowing down the withdrawal.

The officials said Obama was considering a request Ghani made several weeks ago for flexibility on the pace of the drawdown, according to Dan Feldman, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the State Department.

"Absolutely, we expect some discussion with regard to President Ghani's request for flexibility," Feldman said during a phone briefing ahead of Ghani's scheduled arrival in Washington on Sunday. "But no decisions have yet been made on that."

Senior officials said Obama had spoken several times with Ghani about the troop drawdown and had received recommendations from U.S. military leaders.

Ghani and an Afghan delegation will visit the White House on Tuesday and meet with senior administration and congressional officials during a four-day trip to the U.S.

Jeff Eggers, senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan with the National Security Council, said the trip would focus on building a bilateral and strategic partnership under Ghani's leadership.

Eggers said the trip would "herald the beginning of a new chapter in the U.S.-Afghan" relationship.

He said Afghanistan's new government has been more cooperative and more engaged; is putting forth a credible framework for security, a stronger economy, good governance and respect for human rights; and is fighting corruption.

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