Obama to maintain troop level in Afghanistan this year

Obama to maintain troop level in Afghanistan this year

US President Barack Obama today said he would keep 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, at the conclusion of talks with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani.

"Based on President Ghani's request for flexibility in the US draw down timeline, the US will maintain its current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of 2015," Obama said in a joint statement issued after the talks here.

The specific trajectory of the 2016 US troop draw down will be established later in 2015 to enable the US troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016, the joint statement said.

"This flexibility reflects the re-invigorated partnership with Afghanistan, which is aimed at making Afghanistan secure and preventing it from being used to launch terrorist attacks," it said.

"Reconciliation and a political settlement remain the surest way to achieve the full retrograde of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan in a way that safeguards international interests and peace in Afghanistan, as well as US national security interests," the joint statement added.

Obama also welcomed Af-Pak peace talks initiated by Ghani, and reiterated his support to a Afghan-led reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

"Obama welcomed recent developments in Afghan-Pakistani relations," a joint US-Afghan statement said issued at the conclusion of talks at the White House.

"Both leaders emphasised the importance of continued efforts to advance Afghan-Pakistani dialogue aimed at building trust and producing tangible progress in the peace process, and improving the security situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region at large," the statement said.

While reaffirming their determination to cooperate against those who advocate violence and extremism, Obama and Ghani also stressed the need for an Afghan-led peace process, enjoying regional support, in particular from Pakistan, noting that as a part of the outcome of any such process, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups must end violence, break ties with international terrorist groups, and accept Afghanistan's constitution, including its protections for the rights of women and minorities.

Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah emphasised their mutual and strong determination to advance a reconciliation process based on these principles.
Obama reaffirmed strong US support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and committed to make available additional financial support for the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) to facilitate the peaceful reintegration of former combatants into their local communities, the joint statement said.

Calling on all countries in the region to support Afghanistan's security, stability and prosperity, the two presidents endorsed efforts to deepen the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

Now the number of US troops in Afghanistan would remain 9,800 throughout the year 2015, the number and pace of drawdown of troops in the year 2016 would be determined by the commanders next year, Obama said at a joint news conference with Ghani. The two leaders spent the day together.

"President Ghani has requested some flexibility on our drawdown timelines. I've consulted with General (John) Campbell in Afghanistan. My national security team, and I've decided that we will maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of this year," Obama said.

"The specific trajectory of the 2016 drawdown will be established later this year to enable our final consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016. This flexibility reflects our reinvigorated partnership with Afghanistan, which is aimed at making Afghanistan secure and preventing it from being used to launch terrorist attacks.
"Reconciliation and a political settlement remain the surest way to achieve the full drawdown of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan in a way that safeguards international interests and peace in Afghanistan, as well as US national security interests," Obama said.

Ghani, who is currently on a five-day official trip to the US, welcomed the decision, stating that this would give his government to strengthen the Afghan security forces.

"The flexibility that has been provided for 2015 will be used to accelerate reforms, to ensure that the Afghan national security forces are much better lead, equipped, trained, and are focused on the fundamental mission," Ghani said.

"I'm pleased to say that the departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap or the collapse that was often anticipated. I'd like to pay tribute at this moment to the continued sacrifice of the Afghan security forces, civilians, and a patriotic nation.

"There's much work that lies ahead of us, and the flexibility that has been provided will be used to maximum effect, to exhilarate reforms, to ensure that our security forces honour human rights, that they internalise the practices that binds an army, a police force, a secret service, to the people," he said.

"Violence against our people has no place within our security culture, and we will overcome those types of legacies," Ghani said.

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