Last year, President Obama said U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be brought home by the end of 2016. He took a much different tone Thursday. From the Roosevelt Room in the White House, Obama announced that 9,800 troops will remain in the unstable country through most of next year.
“Our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” Obama said. “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists.”
The commander-in-chief started by praising our troops for delivering justice to Osama Bin Laden, pushing the Taliban back, saving lives and training Afghan forces so they could protect their country.
Yet, he said they have not quite reached their goal.
“Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”
Meanwhile, he said, the Taliban has made gains and key areas are still fragile. He explained the military’s four key initiatives in Afghanistan. Their mission, he insisted, will not change:
1. Maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops through most of next year to train Afghan forces and fight Al Qaeda.
2. Maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases.
3. Work with allies to strengthen Afghan security forces.
4. Continue to support President Ashraf Ghani as his government pursues reforms.
Knowing his announcement will be met with mixed emotions, Obama felt compelled to speak directly to those who will be most affected.
“Americans’ commitment to you remains firm…Today is a reminder that America keeps its commitments.”
To our brave soldiers:
“To our men and women in uniform, I do not send you into harm’s way lightly. It’s the most solemn decision I make. …I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests.”
To the American people:
“I know many of you have grown weary of this conflict…Given what’s at stake in Afghanistan, I am firmly convinced we should make this extra effort.”