Obama Delays Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

The American president slows the pullout of troops from Afghanistan in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan deliver a news conference at the White House in Washington DC, March 24
Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan deliver a news conference at the White House in Washington DC, March 24 (White House/Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama was expected to announce on Thursday that the United States would keep some 5,500 soldiers in Afghanistan into 2017, slowing the troop withdrawal in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

9,800 American troops are now stationed in the South Asian country, down from the 100,000 that were fighting there as recently as 2010.

The president said last year that he planned to pull out nearly all remaining forces by the end of his second term, leaving only around a thousand troops to provide security in the capital, Kabul.

Under his latest plan, troops would stay at their bases in Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar. The decision on when to withdraw and how fast would be left to Obama’s successor.

The United Nations said earlier this week that the Taliban’s reach is now wider than it has been since the 2001 invasion. The fall of Kunduz, a provincial capital in the north of the country, last month underlined both the determination of the radical Islamist group to retake power and the inefficacy of the Afghan security forces that have been trained by the United States. The city was reconquered a week later — but only with the help of Western soldiers.