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US to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through end 2015

WASHINGTON:  The United States will maintain its current 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday after President Barack Obama met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Based on President Ghani’s request for flexibility in the U.S. drawdown timeline, the U.S. will maintain its current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of 2015,” the White House said.

“The specific trajectory of the 2016 U.S. troop drawdown will be established later in 2015 to enable the U.S. troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016,” the statement said.

Ghani became Afghanistan’s president last year and enjoys much smoother relations with Washington than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

Obama said last year that by the end of 2015, U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be reduced to about half of the current levels. But more recently, U.S. officials have said the improved relationship with Afghan leaders contributed to military officials revising their plans.

Some lawmakers had also called for a slower drawdown of troop levels. U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry, a Republican who leads the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said the decision announced on Tuesday was “appropriate.”

“Iraq has shown us the consequences of leaving a fragile ally too early,” he said in a statement. “The bottom line is that our own security is at stake.” – Reuters

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