Taliban gains may stir Obama to revise Afghan policy

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30 September 2015

In a potential major shift in policy, US military leaders want to keep at least a few thousand American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

The commanders point to a fragile security situation highlighted by the Taliban's capture of the northern city of Kunduz this week as well as recent inroads in the south, reports AP.

Keeping any substantial number of troops in Afghanistan beyond next year would mark a sharp departure from President Barack Obama's existing plan, which would leave only an embassy-based security cooperation presence of about 1,000 military personnel by the end of next year.

Obama has made it a centerpiece of his second-term foreign policy message that he would end the US war in Afghanistan and get American troops out before he left office.

About 9,800 US are currently in Afghanistan.

Obama has made it a centerpiece of his second-term foreign policy message that he would end the US war in Afghanistan and get American troops out by the time he left office in January 2017.

But the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John F Campbell, has given the administration several options for gradually reducing that number over the next 15 months.

The options all call for keeping a higher-than-planned troop presence based on his judgment of what it would take to sustain the Afghan army and minimize the chances of losing more ground gained over more than a decade of costly US combat.

The timing of a new decision on US troop levels is unclear. Campbell is scheduled to testify to Congress next week on the security situation, including the effectiveness of Afghan security forces after a tough summer of fighting.

The Taliban's takeover of Kunduz, a city of 300,000, marked the militants' first capture of a major city since the US invasion ousted their government 14 years ago in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks.

Republican critics of Obama's approach to transitioning from the wartime occupation of Afghanistan to full Afghan security control called the fall of Kunduz a predictable consequence of Obama's calendar-based troop reductions.

The loss of Kunduz may prove temporary, but it has underscored the fragility of Afghan security and hardened the view of those who favour keeping US troops there beyond 2016.





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