President Barack Obama will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017, according to senior administration officials, casting aside his promise to stop the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands the conflict off to his successor.
Obama had initially planned to pull out all but a small, embassy-based U.S. military presence by the end of next year, a timeline coinciding with the final weeks of his presidency.
The President was to announce the changes Thursday morning from the White House. Officials said Obama would outline plans to maintain the present force of 9,800 troops then draw down to 5,500 troops at a pace to be established by commanders.
The decisions were previewed by the officials on the condition of anonymity since they weren’t authorized to talk about the matter publicly ahead of the president.
U.S. officials have been suggesting at the policy shift for weeks, noting that states on the earth in Afghanistan have changed since Obama’s initial decision on a more sudden troop withdrawal timeline was made more than two years ago. Having a more dependable partner who succeeded the mercurial Hamid Karzai a year ago has also buoyed the White House.