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Confirming that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will inherit the longest war in U.S. history, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that over 8,000 troops will stay in Afghanistan after he leaves the White House.
The figure is thousands more than the 5,500 soldiers he said in October 2015 would remain in the country.
The announcement comes roughly 18 months after the U.S. and NATO formally ended—in name—the war in December 2014, and Obama acknowledged the 15 years of continued war, saying, "few Americans imagined we'd be there—in any capacity—this long."
"Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration," Obama said.
He defended the number by saying "the Taliban remains a threat" and has "gained ground in some cases." The level of troops "will allow us to continue to provide tailored support to help Afghan forces continue to improve," he said.
The announcement, he added, "best positions my successor to make future decisions about our presence in Afghanistan," and "ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for continued progress in Afghanistan as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) called the announcement "a step in the wrong direction" and a sign "that our nation's longest war is far from over."
She criticized the "war's $741 billion price tag," adding in her statement, "In 2001, I opposed the authorization for this war because it allowed any President to wage endless war without the Congressional oversight mandated by the Constitution. I will continue to pursue every legislative opportunity to re-establish Congress’s constitutionally-required oversight of war."