Julie Pace of the Associated Press is reporting:
President Barack Obama will seek to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war formally ends later this year and then withdraw most of those forces by 2016, senior administration officials said Tuesday.A senior White House official said:
Obama's decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and would allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office.
The two-year plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the agreement, U.S. officials are confident that either of the candidates seeking to replace him would give his approval.
"He will announce that our combat mission will be over by the end of 2014. He will make clear that we are open to continued efforts in Afghanistan on two narrow missions after 2014: training Afghan Forces and supporting CT operations against the remnants of al Qaeda [...] We will only sustain a military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement."Eli Lake and Josh Rogin at The Daily Beast write:
While 10,000 U.S. forces in mid-2014 represents what looks like the limit of what Obama may agree to leave in Afghanistan past 2014, at one point it was considered the bare minimum. Dunford’s predecessor, Gen. John Allen, recommended in 2013 that Obama leave 20,000 troops in Afghanistan past 2014 and said 10,000 troops would represent a “high-risk option,” according two U.S. military officials who worked on the planning documents.Obama is scheduled to deliver an address on plans for Afghanistan today at 2:45 PM ET in the Rose Garden.
Allen’s recommendations were also made before a massive, 61,500-pound truck bomb headed for a U.S. forward operating base on the Pakistan border was intercepted this fall by Afghan security forces. The bomb was the largest one U.S. officials had seen for the entire war. First reported by ABC News, U.S. military officials tell The Daily Beast that the truck bomb forced U.S. military planners to increase their estimates of the troops needed just to protect U.S. bases in Afghanistan after 2014.