WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced a plan to leave a contingency force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. ends its combat mission there this year. The U.S. will cut that number roughly in half by the end of 2015.
"One year later, by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul with a security assistance component, just as we've done in Iraq," the president said.
After more than 12 years of war and conflict in Afghanistan, the president said the U.S. will now support a dual mission there, which includes training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against what remains of al-Qaida.
"The bottom line is, it's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Obama said. "When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in harm's way. By the end of this year, we will have less than 10,000."
The announcement comes just two days after the president made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he met with top military officials and renewed his pledge to end combat operations there by the end of the year.
Outgoing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the U.S.-Afghan security deal, which calls for the drawdown, but both presidential candidates to succeed him have said they would. If they don't, senior administration officials said U.S. troops will not remain in the country.