Scrapping his original plan to drop the number of troops in Afghanistan by early next year, President Obama announced he will maintain troop levels of 8,400 in that war-torn region on Wednesday.
The updated plan is an indication that the administration's hopes for a wind-down of conflict in Afghanistan have unraveled in the face of continued violence, opposition, and Taliban interference. The President announced:
“Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration.”
Obama spoke from the White House. Flanked by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, he explained that expectations for the Afghan security forces to stand and fight on their own have not been met:
“The security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. Even as they improve, are still not as strong as they need to be....At the same time, the Taliban remains a threat...more Afghan men, women, and children are dying.”
In December 2014, Obama announced the United States' combat efforts in Afghanistan, which once included 100,000 American troops, would come to a “responsible conclusion.” He based this plan upon what was perceived as a more stable situation in the country.
In the past year, 38 Americans, both military and civilian, have died in Afghanistan.
Obama said he based the decision on a fresh military review of the entire situation in Afghanistan conducted this spring. Taking into account the status of the security forces, as well as the region's vulnerability to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, Obama revised the troop levels:
“Afghanistan is not a perfect place, but with our support, Afghanistan is now a better place than it once was.”
The President also included a message for the Taliban:
"You have now been waging war against the Afghan people for many years, you've been unable to prevail. Afghan security forces continue to grow stronger.
And the commitment of the international community, including the United States, to Afghanistan and its people will endure."
Obama added the decision to leave troops in Afghanistan would be a good thing for whomever occupies the White House after his departure:
“The next United States President will assume the most solemn responsibility of the Commander in Chief, the security of the United States and the safety of the American people. The decision I'm making today ensures my successor has a solid foundation.”
On Thursday, Obama leaves for Poland and his final NATO Summit. He said he would encourage other allies and nations to also support Afghanistan in its efforts to retake power from the Taliban and gain control of the chaos that remains following 14 years of war.