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President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and 5,500 when he leaves office in 2017, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands off the conflict to a successor.
Obama called the new war plan a "modest but meaningful" extension of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, which he originally planned to end next year. He acknowledged America's weariness of the lengthy conflict but said he was "firmly convinced we should make this extra effort."
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Military leaders have argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the U.S. to beat back a resurgent Taliban and hold onto gains made over the past 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid. In his remarks from the White House Thursday, Obama said that while Afghan forces have made progress, the security situation in the country remains fragile.
After lengthy internal deliberations, Obama settled on a plan 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 after consultation with commanders.
It will be up to Obama's successor — the third U.S. commander in chief to oversee the war — to decide how to proceed from there.
"I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president," Obama said, standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford.
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