Obama administration rethinks pulling out troops from Afghanistan

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Oct 15, 2015 01:50 IST
A US soldier directs his colleague at the site of a bomb attack that targeted several armoured vehicles belonging to forces attached to the NATO Resolute Support Mission, in downtown of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo)

The Obama administration is rethinking pull-out of troops from Afghanistan and may delay the process or give it up entirely and leave behind a sizable force, given recent developments.

As per the current timeline, the US plans to pull out completely by the end of 2016, and leave behind just a small force to protect its embassy in Kabul and its staff elsewhere in the country.

But a resurgent Taliban, which took the northern city of Kunduz despite air support and US special forces’ help, has led to a rethink, according to officials quoted by US media.

India favours continued US presence in Afghanistan and has openly called the plan to pull out a mistake. It will welcome, thus, the current thinking in Washington DC.

There are no firmed up numbers for what the size of the force will be. But some in favour are seeking at least a couple of bases for the US to run its drones to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists. Also on the table is a proposal from the Martin Dempsey, the previous chairman of the joint chiefs of staff — leaving behind between 2,000 and 3,000 troops for counter-terrorism.

Proposals include everything from the small force originally envisioned to protect the embassy, to 9,800, the present level to continue counter-terrorism, training and assisting roles.

Obama is determined to end the war and as he has said many times before, bringing the troops home. But he finds himself coming under increasing pressure to leave behind a lager presence.

The New York Times cited a new study from Atlantic Council, a think-tank, that argues for continuing support for the Afghan government.

The paper is written by James B Cunningham, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, and is signed by 20 former officials, including Madeline Albright, former secretary of state.

The paper has bipartisan backing — its two sponsors are senators John McCain and John Reed, the chairman and ranking member of the senate armed services committee.

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