The US Department of Defense (DoD) will delay the withdrawal of up to 1,000 soldiers from Afghanistan, in a bid to make up for a temporary shortfall in Nato forces in the country.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said: "Last month, thanks to the leadership of President Ghani and [chief executive officer] Dr [Abdullah] Abdullah, the Afghan Parliament overwhelmingly approved the US – Afghanistan bilateral security agreement and the Nato status of forces agreement.
"However, because of prior delays in signing these agreements, the force generation effort for Resolute Support is several months behind where we hoped it would be at this time.
"This will mean a delayed withdrawal of up to 1,000 US troops, so that up to 10,800 troops rather than 9,800 could remain in Afghanistan through [to] the end of this year and through the first few months [of] next year."
The move was authorised by US President Barack Obama, to provide military commanders with the flexibility to manage any temporary force shortfalls they might experience, as coalition troops arrive in Afghanistan for Operation Resolute Support.
However, the missions and long-term timeline for withdrawal remain unchanged.
Led by Nato, Operation Resolute Support aims to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, as they assume full responsibility for their nation’s full security from next year.
Hagel added: "As planned, Resolute Support will focus here in Kabul and Bagram, with a limited regional presence.
"As part of this mission, the US is prepared to provide limited combat enabler support to Afghan forces."
According to Hagel, US soldiers will prevent al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to threaten Afghan, US and allied citizens, and also take appropriate actions against Taliban insurgents who directly threaten US and coalition forces or provide direct support to al-Qaeda.
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of the US DoD, photo by US Air Force Master Sgt Adrian Cadiz.