Obama Extends US Military Mission in Afghanistan

Obama Extends US Military Mission in AfghanistanObama Extends US Military Mission in Afghanistan

US President Barack Obama has announced plans to extend the country's military role in Afghanistan and keep the current force of 9,800 troops through most of 2016, amid a surge in Taliban attacks.

Obama had aimed to withdraw all but a small US Embassy-based force in the capital Kabul before leaving office in January 2017, Al Jazeera reported.

Under the new plan, troop numbers will fall to 5,500 starting some time in 2017, and be based in Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.

Saying that he does not "support the idea of endless war", Obama nonetheless said that he is "firmly convinced" that the US cannot "allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven" for armed groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

"Since taking the lead for security earlier this year, Afghan forces have continued to step up. Afghan forces continue to hold most major areas," he said.

"In key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration."

Afghanistan welcomed the decision, saying in a statement late Thursday it "will respond to fear and terror with full force", but adding that it will keep "ajar the door to peace".

President Ashraf Ghani also tweeted his support for the decision.

"Beside stability/development of AFG, we remain determined to strengthen the relations in the area of fighting terrorism now more than ever," he wrote.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson said that they will continue their fight against foreign forces until they leave the country.

"It was their decision to enter Afghanistan but our fearless jihad forced them to leave. This will continue until the last person [from foreign forces] is out of our country," said Mujahid.