United States’ Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has confirmed that the Obama administration will leave about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than planned originally after the end of the year.
Hagel, in his last visit to Afghanistan before stepping down as Pentagon chief, said on Saturday that President Barack Obama’s decision to give the military some flexibility was taken with a view to cope with “any temporary force shortfall” arising from Nato nations’ difficulties in delivering troops on time, The Washington Times reported.
Earlier, a plan announced in May had said that the number of American troops in Afghanistan was supposed to be reduced to 9,800 by January 1, 2015. However, a total of 10,800 troops will now remain in the nation through the end of this year and for the first few months in 2015, Hagel said.
He added that the shift in troop numbers and the White House’s decision to expand some authorities for the remaining US forces will not alter Obama’s framework for ending the role of the US in the 13-year-long Afghan war that began shortly after the terror attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.
The announcement came as the US and the Nato nations are working to ensure a timely launch of a new international mission to support Afghan security forces. The new mission will focus on training Afghan troops and will ensure that the nation does not suffer the same military collapse that occurred in Iraq over the past year.