US to slow troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani   Photo: AP

The US has agreed to slow down its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan following a request from the country's new president.

Barack Obama had originally planned to cut the size of US forces from its current level of 9,800 to about 5,000 by the end of the 2015.

But in response to a plea from Ashraf Ghani, the new Afghan president, Mr Obama has decided to maintain the troop levels at 9,800 through the rest of this year.

The US president said that he remained committed to withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, leaving behind only a small force to guard the US embassy.

Mr Obama's decision to slow down the US withdrawal reflects what he called "the reinvigorated partnership" with Afghanistan since Mr Ghani succeeded Hamid Karzai as the country's leader.

While Mr Karzai was mercurial and often lashed out at the US in public, Mr Ghani is seen by the White House as a more reliable partner.

Hamid Karzai. Photo: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Mr Ghani, who speaks fluent English and like Mr Obama is a graduate of New York's Columbia University, began his remarks at the White House with a tribute to the more than 2,000 US troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

"You stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and I'd like to say thank you," he said.

He also said that "Afghanistan is the front line" in an ongoing fight against al-Qaeda in the region and warned that terrorists could return if the US withdrew too hastily.

Critics argue that Mr Obama withdrew US troops prematurely from Iraq, creating a vaccuum which has been filled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Mr Obama said that the US was wanted "to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help Afghan security forces succeed so we don't have to go back".

Source : telegraph[dot]co[dot]uk
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