Senior Afghan and Pakistani officials, as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are urging Barack Obama’s administration to reconsider withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, pointing to the chaos and violence in Iraq and warning that Afghanistan could suffer a similar fate if all the Americans go home by 2016, as planned.
The United States and the new Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani inked a long-awaited bilateral security agreement on Tuesday, Sept. 30, that clears the way for 9,800 American troops to remain in Afghanistan when the U.S. combat mission ends later this year.
A “vast majority” of the 9,800 American troops will carry out “train and advise missions” under the NATO umbrella, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters Tuesday. The official declined to say how many U.S. special operations forces will remain in Afghanistan to carry out counterterrorism operations.
“I can’t quantify it, but I can say that with a smaller footprint and fewer people you do less than with a larger footprint and more people,” the U.S. official said.
Many senior military and civilian officials from the Afghan and Pakistani governments, however, fear that the Obama administration is pulling up stakes far too soon. In face-to-face meetings in Washington, Kabul, and Islamabad, representatives of the two countries have been pressing their American counterparts to leave more troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016. Sticking to the schedule laid out by Obama, they argue, would pave the way for the Taliban to conquer large portions of Afghanistan, just as Islamic State militants have done in Iraq.
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