Betraying repeatedly stated vows to bring all U.S. troops home before he leaves office, President Barack Obama will announce on Thursday that as many as 5,500 soldiers will remain in the country until at least 2017.
Citing unnamed officials, the Associated Press was the first to break the news and noted the announcement will ensure Obama—despite numerous promises to the contrary—”hands the conflict off to his successor.”AP reports:
Officials said he would outline plans to maintain the current force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017, at a pace still to be determined by commanders.The officials previewed the decisions on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly ahead of the president.
U.S. officials have been hinting at the policy shift for weeks, noting that conditions on the ground in Afghanistan have changed since Obama’s initial decision on a sharper troop withdrawal timeline was made more than two years ago.
The news comes less than two weeks after the U.S. bombed a hospital in the northern city of Kunduz—killing 22 people, including patients and medical staff. Though Doctors Without Borders/MSF, the international group which ran the hospital, has submitted a formal request for an international and independent probe of the attack, the U.S. government has to consent.
For those who have paid close attention to the failed adventures of the U.S. military in Afghanistan since 2001, Thursdays news will not come as a surprise.
As Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and a longtime critic of Obama’s foreign policy, acknowledged in a tweet in response to Thursday’s expected announcement: “Obama to announce the Afghan War isn’t over after all (which has been clear since he declared it “over” months ago).”
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