Obama agrees to delay US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
The US Government has agreed to delay the planned withdrawal of US soldiers from Afghanistan to help the country's security forces succeed during the upcoming fighting season.
The announcement came as part of press conference after a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.
US President Barack Obama said: "President Ghani has requested some flexibility on our drawdown timelines.
"We're essentially moving the drawdown pace over to the right for several months, in part to compensate for the lengthy period it took for government formation, in part because we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help Afghan security forces succeed...so we don't have to respond in an emergency because terrorist activities are being launched out of Afghanistan."
In May 2014, the Obama administration announced plans to maintain 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for the Resolute Support mission until September, and then reduce the strength to 5,500 for the rest of the year and most of 2016.
According to Obama, the country will maintain 9,800 troops through to the end of this year, and will make a final decision on the drawdown speed in 2016 later this year.
Obama also agreed to continue to keep in place the close security cooperation with Afghanistan, and also work with Congress to provide funding to sustain 352,000 Afghan police and troops through 2017.
Obama said: "At the same time, we'll continue to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations."
The US Government also agreed to continue support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process with the Taliban and an outreach effort to Pakistan.
Ghani said the country will use the flexibility provided by the US to accelerate reforms and to ensure that the Afghan forces are much better led, equipped and trained, and are focused on the fundamental mission.
"I'm pleased to say that the departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap or the collapse that was often anticipated."
Image: US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani en route to a working lunch in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House. Photo: courtesy of White House photo by Pete Souza.