Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Kabul: Post-2014, the Obama administration has planned to withdraw all but 9,800 US troops from Afghanistan, signalling an end to more than a dozen years of military involvement in the South Asian country that was sparked by 9/11 attacks.
The crucial US decision came to light yesterday when speaking at White House Rose Garden, US President Barack Obama said that if a Bilateral Security Agreement is signed by the next Afghanistan President, the US will allow a 9800-strong troops` presence across the war-torn country till 2016 and wind up the military engagement totally by early 2017, as he would prepare to leave office.
The US troops in Afghanistan after 2014 will have their tasks cut out in form of two major missions – to train Afghan forces and to support counter-terrorism efforts against al Qaeda affiliates.
The announcement in this regard is expected to be made by US President Barack Obama on Wednesday when he will deliver a commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Obama`s address today is being seen as an effort aimed at revamping his foreign and national security policy and to prove his critics wrong on the claims that the US might has waned globally under his administration, reported the Wall Street Journal.
In order to neutralise the criticism that Obama has done little to help rebels confront Assad regime in Syria civil war, the President is expected to “approve, for the first time, a military training program for the armed Syrian opposition”, added the report.
Obama`s address will seek to clarify that the US military might can be substituted by equally powerful and effective options like diplomacy and economic pressure, while also keeping the option of military intervention on he table.
Regarding Afghanistan, where currently more than 30, 000 US troops are stationed, Obama plans to retain almost one-third of the troops there and reduce it by half till the end of 2015.
US troops will then be confined to Kabul and on Bagram Airfield before drawing down to a normal Embassy presence by the end of 2016, as done in Iraq, said an official reportedly.
But the troops` presence will still depend on the BSA agreement that current Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign, deferring the decision for his successor.
However, both the possible successors, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who face a runoff on June 14, have vowed to sign the BSA.
"We will only sustain this military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement that our two governments have already negotiated. This Agreement is essential to give our troops the authorities they need to fulfill their mission, while respecting Afghan sovereignty.
"The two final Afghan candidates in the run-off election for President have each indicated that they would sign this agreement promptly after taking office. So I`m hopeful that we can get this done," he said.