US troops to leave Afghan by 2016 says Barack Obama
Washington: US forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Barack Obama has said, unveiling a plan to end America’s longest war. Underscoring the continuing instability despite a 12-year deployment by US-led Nato combat troops, two Americans were slightly injured in an attack on a US consulate vehicle in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat on Wednesday.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, Mr Obama confirmed that the 32,000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9,800 by the start of 2015.
Those forces would be halved by the end of 2015 before eventually being scaled back to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance component by the end of 2016. “We’re finishing the job we started,” Mr Obama said.
US combat operations would draw to a close at the end of 2014, meaning US troops would no longer patrol Afghan cities, towns or valleys from next year, he said.
The drawdown relies on Afghanistan signing a long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement laying out the terms and conditions of the US military presence in the country after this year.
Afghanistan’s outgoing president Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, but both of the candidates vying to be his successor in next month's run-off vote -- Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- have said they will sign the deal.