Kunduz makes US rethink Afghan withdrawal

15 October 2015

US President Barack Obama is looking at the possibilities of a long-term large presence of American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, in the backdrop of the temporarily takeover of Kunduz city by the Taliban.

Under the current policy, American troops are scheduled to be reduced to embassy level presence by the end of 2016.

Currently there are about 10,000 US troops mainly engaged in training, aid and advise mission in Afghanistan.

No decision in this regard has been made yet, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

"The reason that the US got involved in Afghanistan in the first place was because of the concern about the threat of terrorists that have been operating in Afghanistan and in the region," he said.

The US, he said, has made important progress against extremists in Afghanistan. "However, there continues to be a terror threat emanating from Afghanistan. It's not on the same scale of what - of the risk, pre-9/11, but it's still a risk that we do not take lightly," he said.

"It is important for, in the mind of the President, for the US to preserve our counter-terrorism capabilities inside of Afghanistan - both because of the impact that would have on the stability of the central government in Afghanistan, but also because of the impact that would have on the core national security interests of the US," Earnest said.

Responding to a question, he acknowledged that there is an upcoming policy decision that the president has to make about our ongoing military posture inside of Afghanistan.

He said there's no denying that the risk that is posed by those terrorist elements inside of Afghanistan is significantly lower than the risk that was posed by core Al Qaida pre-9/11.

"However, that is not a terror risk that we take lightly. The president takes it quite seriously, and that's why the work that's been done by our military personnel in Afghanistan even since our combat operations there ended continues to be a top priority," he said.

"We have acknowledged that the President has to make about what is the smartest way for the administration to make a policy decision that is consistent with our national security interests inside of Afghanistan," he said.

The US has been on a long trajectory of reducing military presence inside of Afghanistan, and the question is for the future, what does that military presence look like, if there is one, that is consistent with the need to continue to offer training and advice to the Afghan national security forces and to carry out counter-terrorism operations, he added.

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