President Barack Obama yesterday announced that thousands of US troops will remain in Afghanistan past 2016, retreating from a major campaign pledge as he admitted Afghan forces are not ready to stand alone.
Calling his decision to keep a 9,800-strong US force in Afghanistan through much of next year “the right thing to do,” the president acknowledged “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”
“As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” he said.
Obama’s repeated promises to end America’s “longest war,” have again been thwarted by a dogged Taliban insurgency and Afghan forces slow to get to their feet.
Addressing battle-weary troops who may now be forced to return for another tour, Obama said they could “make a real difference” to stabilising a strategic partner.
“I do not send you into harm’s way lightly,” he told them.
“I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests.”
Obama’s decision – announced in a televised address from the Roosevelt Room of the White House – means he bequeaths to his successor a 14-year war that he inherited from George W Bush.