Updated on October 15 at 2:06 p.m. ET
President Obama announced Thursday that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan past 2016.
The president said the U.S. will maintain 9,800 troops in the country through most of next year. They will focus on training Afghan security forces and counterinsurgency efforts. After that period, 5,500 troops will remain in a small number of bases, including Bagram, Kandahar, and Jalalabad, he said.
The “cessation of our combat role has not changed,” Obama said, adding: “This is consistent with the overall vision that we’ve had.”
But the move, on which we reported Wednesday, is a reversal of the president’s previous position that all U.S. troops withdraw from the country by the end of next year, but it comes as the Taliban continues to grow in strength, al-Qaeda remains in pockets, and the Islamic State gains ground in Afghanistan.
Obama said that while Afghan security forces continued to “step up, … they are still not as strong as they need to be.” He noted that the Taliban had made gains, particularly in rural Afghanistan. He said the situation in Afghanistan remained “still very fragile, and in some places there’s the risk of deterioration.”
The Obama administration had previously planned to reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan by about half, and then keep about 1,000 troops at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.