WASHINGTON • US President Barack Obama has said that he plans to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan until the end of his term, further slowing the drawdown in a 14-year war that Mr Obama pledged to end on his watch but now seems likely to grind on indefinitely.
Acknowledging that the Taleban had retaken territory and were terrorising the population, Mr Obama said he was again adjusting his plan to withdraw US forces.
The announcement will leave his successor with a substantial military commitment in the country, though far less than the nearly 40,000 troops deployed there when he took office.
"The security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious," Mr Obama said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
"Even as they improve, Afghan security forces are still not as strong as they need to be."
The United States has close to 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, where they train and equip Afghan forces and carry out counter-terrorism operations.
Mr Obama cast his decision as a vote of confidence in Afgha- nistan's government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, as well as in the support of Nato members and other partners, who have contributed 6,000 troops.
But it also underscores the fact that American hopes of building an Afghan force capable of securing the entire country had fallen short.
"It is going to continue to take time to build up military capacity that we sometimes take for granted. Given the enormous challenges they face, the Afghan people will need the partnership of the world, led by the United States, for many years to come," Mr Obama said.
"When we first sent our forces into Afghanistan 14 years ago," he added, "few Americans imagined we'd be there - in any capacity - this long."
NEW YORK TIMES