President Barack Obama hopes to keep 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan after the war’s official end in late 2014, according to a senior government official.
About half of those 9,800 troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2015, the Associated Press reports. Nearly all of the soldiers will be home by late 2016, near the end of President Obama’s second term in office.
The two-year plan hinges on the Afghan government’s support of a bilateral security agreement with the United States, the report adds. Departing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who opposes the continued presence of U.S. troops in the country, has not signed the deal, despite the fact that he helped to negotiate its terms. However, government officials believe that either of his prospective replacements will sign the agreement.
Obama is expected to discuss his plan with Karzai before his Tuesday afternoon press conference on the subject. The pair did not meet during Obama's surprise trip to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan over Memorial Day weekend, but spoke by phone as Air Force One returned to Washington.
During his trip to Afghanistan, Obama revealed his desire to maintain a military presence in the region. "After all the sacrifices we've made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win, and we're going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country," he said.
The proposal represents a major reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. If approved, the plan will allow for the reduction of American forces from 32,000 to 9,800 by early 2015. The majority of the 9,800 remaining troops would serve at Bagram Air Field in Kabul, with gradual departures bringing the total to less than 1,000 by 2016. Those 1,000 troops would remain behind to staff a security office in the region.