US President Barack Obama has outlined plans for the presence of 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan to remain after the original end-of-2014 deadline.
Under the new proposal, the rest of the forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2016, ending over a decade of military engagement.
An extended US military presence in the country is dependent on the Afghan government signing a security agreement.
Speaking from Washington on the back of a whirlwind visit to the troops in Afghanistan, Obama said:
“We will only sustain this military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement that our two governments have already negotiated. This Agreement is essential to give our troops the authorities they need to fulfill their mission, while respecting Afghan sovereignty. The two final Afghan candidates in the run-off election for president have each indicated that they would sign this agreement promptly after taking office.”
Afghanistan is in the midst of a presidential race. While outgoing President Hamid Karzai refused to sign the agreement, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani – the two leading candidates for the presidency – will reportedly sign quickly.
The new president will be decided in the second round of elections, which is due to be held on June 14.
If his plan goes ahead, Obama will have extricated the US from the longest war in its history.
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