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Obama slows down US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan

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Obama slows down US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan

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The United States has shelved plans almost to halve the US force in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Troop numbers will be reduced from the current level of just under 10,000 – but only to 8,400 instead of 5,500 as previously planned.

The Taliban insurgency had prompted the administration to rethink, influenced by senior military figures and diplomats.

President Obama took office pledging to wind down US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Wednesday he explained why the troop withdrawal had to be slowed down.

“As President and Commander in Chief, I’ve made it clear that I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again. The narrow missions assigned to our forces will not change. They remain focused on supporting Afghan forces and going after terrorists,” Barack Obama said.

The president, whose term in office ends next January, said his successor would be best positioned to make future decisions concerning the US presence.

At one stage there were 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Obama pointed out he had ended the combat mission in 2014.

The remaining personnel have been focused on training Afghan forces and supporting their counter-terrorism operations.

According to UN estimates Taliban forces now hold more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the US-led invasion in 2001. The self-styled Islamic State group has also established a small presence.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the decision, saying it showed “continued partnership between our nations to pursue our common interests”.

Obama spoke ahead of a forthcoming NATO summit in Poland where alliance members are expected to confirm their support for the Kabul government.

In addition to US forces, there are about 3,000 other international troops in Afghanistan.

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