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US to Keep Higher Level of Troops in Afghanistan
International

US to Keep Higher Level of Troops in Afghanistan

The Obama administration is abandoning plans to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year's end, bowing to military leaders who want to keep more troops, including many into the 2016 fighting season, US officials say.
While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year.
There also are discussions about keeping a steady number of counterterrorism troops into 2015, including options under which some would remain in the country or be nearby beyond 2016.
Currently, about 2,000 US troops are conducting counterterrorism missions, and military leaders have argued that they will need to continue pursuing the remnants of al-Qaida and to monitor Islamic State militants looking to recruit in Afghanistan.
Officials say President Barack Obama probably will use a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this month as the time to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.
US officials familiar with the debate said it's not clear yet whether the White House will agree to a small, symbolic decrease by the end of this year or insist on a larger cut. They note that there is some stiff opposition to any change, largely from national security adviser Susan Rice.

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