and with events not necessarily proceeding to Kabul’s advantage, the president bites the (supposedly non-combat) bullet and fails in his dream to end a second US war (telling the enemy your plans in some detail is not a very bright way to conduct military matters):
Obama outlines plan to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan
President Obama said Thursday [Oct. 15] he will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2017, ending his ambitions to bring home most American forces from that war-torn country before he leaves office.
The president said his decision came after an extensive months-long review that included regular discussions with Afghanistan’s leaders, his national security team and U.S. commanders in the field. The move reflected a painful, if predictable, reality on the ground in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has made gains over the last year as Afghan troops have taken over the vast majority of the fighting.
“Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be,” Obama said Thursday morning from the White House, explaining his decision. “Meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains particularly in rural areas and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul.”
Obama said he will also dramatically slow the pace of the reduction of American forces and plans to maintain the current U.S. force of 9,800 through “most of 2016.” The post-2016 force would still be focused on training and advising the Afghan army, with a special emphasis on its elite counterterror forces. The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al-Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States…
Obama emphasized that Afghans would continue to take the lead role in the fighting, with Americans providing advice and some counterterrorism support from bases outside Kabul. “These bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission,” he said.
The change in course acknowledges the struggle that Afghan forces, which are suffering casualties at what military officials have called an “unsustainable” rate, confront as they battle Taliban offensives not just in Kunduz but in Ghazni and other areas…
At a press conference late defense secretary Carter said US forces would only directly support Afghan security forces in the field versus the Taliban “in extremis” (e.g. Kunduz). So counter-terror missions in which bad guys are killed are defined as not “combat”; but in order to say you are no longer in combat you severely restrict your help to your ally in its main fight. All in order to maintain the–disingenuous–claim that the US is out of combat. Politics beating practicality.
Meanwhile there are the some 6,000 non-American forces (no Canada) serving with NATO’s Operation Resolute Support who get far to little notice in North American media:
How many will carry on?