President Barack Obama has reversed his decision about US troop strength in Afghanistan – announcing that the number of soldiers will remain at 8,400 until the end of his administration. It had originally been planned to reduce the number to 5,500 by the end of the year.
Speaking at the White House, Mr Obama said the role of US forces in Afghanistan would remain unchanged – training and advising Afghan police and troops, and supporting counterterrorism missions against the Taliban and other groups.
According to the Associated Press, Mr Obama, who took office in 2009 pledging to wind down the US wars, said he had ended America’s combat mission in Afghanistan. But he acknowledged that security concerns persisted.
“The security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious,” Mr Obama said. “The Taliban remains a threat. They’ve gained ground in some places.”
Taliban forces now hold more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion, according to recent United Nations estimates.
Mr Obama spoke in advance of a July 8-9 NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, where alliance members are expected to confirm their support for the Kabul government.