The US Department of Defense is reportedly planning to maintain two of its military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year.
The anticipated move highlights the US’s embrace of the new Afghanistan Government, and a wish to prevent the collapse of local security forces triggered by the withdrawal of US soldiers from Iraq, as reported by Reuters.
In May 2014, the US President Barack Obama announced that the US military presence would be reduced to half from the current strength of around 10,000, and the soldiers would operate only from bases in Kabul and Bagram.
According to original plans, the military was scheduled to reduced to a ‘normal embassy presence’ with security assistance by the end of 2016.
However, senior US officials told the news agency that conditions have changed since the announcement, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants Obama to reconsider the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Ghani is scheduled to make his case for slowing the extraction of US forces during his visit to Washington next week.
A senior administration official said: "Being responsive to President Ghani’s request for flexibility is an important part of the visit. I don’t think he’ll feel empty-handed."
The Obama administration has already expressed its willingness to make adjustments to its withdrawal plans to help the new Afghan Government counter the Taliban insurgency.
The officials acknowledged that the White House is exploring ways to slow the planned drawdown of soldiers over the next two years, but denied that talks are ongoing to extend the US presence beyond 2017.
An official said: "No-one’s really talking about anything beyond 2016.
"Most of the discussion has been about the slope of the curve over the course of 2015 and 2016 to be able to kind of optimise the chances of success."
According to the news agency, the Kandahar and Jalalabad bases are vital to the Pentagon, as they are used by the military to train, advise and assist senior Afghan commanders in charge of some of the Afghan Army’s six corps, as well as the Afghan special operations forces.