Washington: President Barack Obama is considering a proposal to keep some 5,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond 2016, according to a media report.
Such a move "would end" Obama's plans to bring US troops home before he leaves office on January 20, 2017, The Washington Post reported yesterday.
The White House however asserted that no such decision has been made yet.
"As the President makes these kinds of policy decisions, he certainly takes into account the conditions on the ground and the advice that he receives from our military personnel that are serving on the front lines," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.
Responding to a question on the report, Earnest said Obama also has a responsibility to broaden his perspective and to make sure that he's considering the full range of impacts of a decision like this.
"So the President wants to look at the long-term trajectory of our presence in Afghanistan, and factor in both what our experience has been in recent years, but also how best to account for the United States' national security interests inside of Afghanistan," he said.
The reason that the US has been involved in Afghanistan -- and this has been at the center of the President's strategy for Afghanistan -- is making sure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a safe haven for terrorists to plot and carry out attacks against the United States or our interests around the world.
"And obviously, an important part of accomplishing that mission is improving the security situation inside of Afghanistan," he said, adding that the US continues to work closely with Afghan security forces as they try to provide for their own security.
"There are US military personnel in Afghanistan that are conducting counterterrorism operations to protect the American people, but also continuing to offer some training and advice to Afghan security forces that are trying to secure their country," Earnest said.
According to The Washington Post, such a proposal was presented in August by Gen Martin E Dempsey, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"The Dempsey plan envisions the US maintaining a few bases, perhaps two or three, that could be used as "lily pads" to launch strikes against groups that threaten the United States, senior defense and administration officials said," the daily reported.
"The lily-pad bases would potentially house American drones and fighter jets as well as elite counterterrorism troops, and could be at Bagram air base north of Kabul and one or two other airfields," said senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.