President Obama announced a significant shift to his Afghanistan exit plan Thursday: Instead of exiting, there will now be up to 5,500 U.S troops staying in Afghanistan through at least 2017.
The sudden departure from Obama's proposed strategy in 2014 comes after months of major attacks by insurgent groups across Afghanistan, where the Taliban have recently gained territory — most notably temporarily holding the key northern hub of Kunduz, the first major city to fall to the insurgents since 2001. Afghan forces, with the help of U.S. advisers and equipment, were able to take back the city earlier this week.
Here is a more detailed map detailing recent attacks in Afghanistan:
Obama's original plan called for only 1,000 troops, based in Kabul, by the end of 2016.
Afghan military commanders, as expected, welcomed the announcement, but some viewed the decision with skepticism. They hoped Washington and the Pentagon would go beyond their “train, advise and assist” role and equip Afghan forces with the sophisticated high tech arsenal used by U.S. armed forces.
“The delay in withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is a good decision at the moment but a temporary solution. The permanent solution is to train and equip Afghan forces,” said Gen. Sayed Malok, a commander in Ghazni province, where the insurgents this week made an assault against the provincial capital southwest of Kabul.
“If U.S. had equipped Afghan forces by now we would have been able to fight insurgency by ourself. Afghan air force needs to be equipped with Apache and Cobra helicopters. During the period that U.S. wants to extend its military presence in Afghanistan, U.S. should equip and train Afghan forces.”
“It is better for Americans to stay longer in Afghanistan, because Afghan security forces need advanced weapon and training,” said a police general in Parwan province, who asked not to be named for security reasons. “If U.S. troops stay longer they would be able to train and equip Afghan forces.”