US President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday his intention to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the end of combat operations this year.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama also stated that all American troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of the his second term in 2016, except for those required to maintain a normal embassy presence.

“We will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end” this year, Obama said, adding the US "will conclude [its] combat mission in Afghanistan.”

Beginning in 2015, the president said, “Afghans will be fully responsible for securing their country,”with remaining US forces filling an “advisory role.” American troops would still be open to training local forces and supporting counter-terrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda, but they would no longer be patrolling cities and streets as they do currently.

There are approximately 32,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan. That contingent would be cut down to 9,800 in 2015, with troops stationed across the country. In 2016, that force will be cut in half and consolidated in Kabul and Bagram Air Base as the US prepares a normal security contingent for the future, similar to the country’s embassy presence in Iraq.

Obama acknowledged that the US presence in Afghanistan has been longer than many Americans expected, but said, “we have struck significant blows against Al Qaeda’s leadership,” eliminated Osama bin Laden, and provided Afghans an opportunity to build their own democracy.

As noted by president, the plan hinges on both the US and Afghanistan coming to a mutual bilateral security agreement - something that has eluded American officials thus far. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign such an agreement, but Obama said he is “hopeful” that whomever wins the country’s upcoming presidential election will agree to the proposal.


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