The Obama administration is dropping its plans to reduce the amount of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year, significantly altering the timeline which officials had said would see troops largely withdraw from the country by 2016, according to reports.
In fact, officials say, the administration could allow up to 9,800 American troops to remain in Afghanistan well into next year's "fighting season."
The announcement on Saturday came a few weeks after new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter indicated that the White House was "rethinking" its counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan and would slow down its troop withdrawal from the country, despite long-held promises from Washington to remove the U.S. military presence there.
While no final decisions on numbers of troops have been made yet, Associated Press reports that officials are also discussing "options under which some [troops] would remain in the country or be nearby beyond 2016."
President Barack Obama will likely use an upcoming visit by U.S.-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to make an official announcement about the development later this month.
The U.S. and Afghanistan in September signed a controversial Bilateral Security Agreement, which went into effect in January and will last until 2024. As Common Dreams previously reported, the BSA "stipulates long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and access to numerous bases and installations in the country, including facilities located in Bagram, home to the notorious U.S. military prison," without specifying the number of troops to remain in the country.
In February, the United Nations published a report that revealed "credible and reliable" evidence of the U.S. military torturing detainees in Afghanistan.