President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. military would leave approximately 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014. The White House hopes to finally secure an American presence in the country with a bilateral security agreement (BSA). Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA, but both candidates running in the June 2014 Presidential runoff have pledged their support for the agreement.
Under the new White House plan, the U.S. military would draw down its current force of 32,000 to approximately 10,000 troops by 2015. According to senior administration officials, most soldiers stationed in the country would then be tasked with counter-terrorism missions and focused on training local forces. During the following year, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated to Kabul and the U.S. base in Bagram. After 2016, less than 1,000 soldiers would remain, primarily to guard other U.S. staff in the Afghan capital.
Soldiers take photos as U.S. President Barack Obama, center, shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram air base in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
Top U.S. military commanders warned earlier this month that having less than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan would make Americans vulnerable to attack and increase the difficulty of training local forces. Republicans in congress also criticized the administration’s decision; House Speaker John Boehner said that “conditions on the ground should dictate troop decisions.” Senator Lindsey Graham cautioned Obama against “repeating some of the same mistakes” that lead to an increase in violence after U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011.
Even as the Obama Administration pursues a near ‘zero-option’ after 2016, Washington has still pledged large amounts of financial aid to the fledgling government. Of over $12.9 billion in aid sent to Kabul last year, almost $10 billion dollars went towards military spending and security assistance. Western allies also have lavished aid on Afghanistan, with over $100 billion appropriated to the country since 2002.