Washington. — U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he wants more than 9,800 U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, with the number cut roughly in half by the end of 2015.
By the end of 2016, he said, the military “will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component.”
Obama said this year is a “pivotal year” in Afghanistan, saying that 2014 will mark the conclusion of the U.S. combat mission there.
“We will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end,” he said.
Two candidates facing each other in next month’s run-off election to choose Karzai’s successor have said they will sign the security pact.
In a background call with journalists before Obama’s announcement, senior administration officials said the intention was to show continued international support for Afghanistan as it transitions to its new elected government.
Some NATO forces would join U.S. troops remaining beyond 2014, the officials noted.
The successful first round of voting showed Afghanistan forces now were capable of providing security, the officials said.
Obama’s announcement comes the day before he delivers a foreign policy speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
According to the officials, Obama will outline a shift in resources permitted by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to increase counter-terrorism assets in Africa and elsewhere.