US May Keep Thousands of Troops in Afghanistan After 2016: Reports

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U.S. and NATO officials are reportedly reviewing new draw down options, which include, keeping thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2016.

General John Campbell, the commander of international troops in Afghanistan, has submitted five different recommendations to the Pentagon and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials in Brussels, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The options include keeping the current U.S. presence at or near 10,000; reducing it slightly to 8,000; cutting the force roughly in half; and continuing with current plans, the paper explained.

According to the Journal, some U.S. officials worry that a large cut in the number of international forces could endanger the sustainability of the Afghan government.

Pentagon has however not made any official recommendation to the White House on any changes on troop presence, the paper added.

“We will continue to work closely with President Ghani, the Afghan government, and our international partners to ensure that Afghan forces have the capabilities and training necessary to preserve the gains made by the Afghans and the international community over the last 13 years,” the paper quoted an unnamed Obama administration official as saying.

The Afghan officials and analysts, meanwhile, stressed the need for continued international community’s support to the Afghan forces.

“The American generals realize that their military gains are still vulnerable in Afghanistan,” lawmaker Mirdad Nijrabi said. “The Afghan security forces need support from their international counterparts. We see the role of foreign forces very important. If necessary, we will request them to bring back their combat forces to Afghanistan.”

This comes after President Barack Obama announced in March that the U.S. would keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 following a request by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. However, the original plan suggested keeping 5,500 troops by the end of 2015.

Currently, about 13,000 U.S. and NATO troops are stationed in Afghanistan, mainly focusing on training and assisting the Afghan forces under the Resolute Support (RS) mission, which started last year after the end of combat mission.

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