Senior administration officials say President Obama will announce Thursday that he will keep a larger military presence in Afghanistan than he had planned. The president had hoped to whittle the U.S. forces down to just 1,000 by the time he left office.
The officials say 9,800 troops will stay in Afghanistan through most of 2016, and 5,500 in 2017.
NPR’s Mara Liasson reports the decision was driven by recent successes by anti-government Taliban fighters:
“[President Obama] and his military commanders concluded a more robust U.S. force was needed. There are about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now. They have two missions — counter-terrorism, and training and advising Afghan forces, and officials said those missions will not change.”
The New York Times has more on advances by the Taliban and other groups:
“The insurgents are now spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to the United Nations, and last month they seized the city of Kunduz with only a few hundred fighters. At the same time, al-Qaida operatives are still finding havens in the mountains of Afghanistan, and the Islamic State has gained a toehold by recruiting disaffected Taliban, opening a treacherous new chapter in the war.”
The Washington Post notes that, not just Taliban successes, but a new approach by the insurgents requires the U.S. to adjust:
“In the wake of its pullout from the key northern city of Kunduz, the Taliban is setting its sights on other provincial centers, triggering fears that more cities could fall as the insurgent group makes a tactical shift by targeting urban areas as much as rural districts.
“The Taliban is focusing on two provincial centers in the south, Qalat and Ghazni, according to government officials and residents in those cities. Clashes have erupted in recent days in areas surrounding Ghazni, capital of the province of the same name, and Qalat, capital of Zabul province.
“In the city of Ghazni, about 75 miles southwest of Kabul, Taliban fighters launched a multi-pronged offensive early Tuesday, getting as close as three miles from the city limits before they were repelled by Afghan forces.”