US Troops To Stay In Afghanistan Until 2016

Sky News US Team

The United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for two years after the war formally ends later this year, President Barack Obama has said.

The two-year proposal calls for nearly all of the remaining US forces to be out by the end of 2016, as Mr Obama finishes his second term.

The president said: "By the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we've done in Iraq."

Mr Obama said the 9,800 troops would focus on supporting counter-terrorism operations and training Afghan security forces, and would not be engaged in combat missions.

"We will no longer patrol Afghan cities and towns," he said. 

There currently are 32,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Mr Obama said the draw down to 9,800 would be completed by 2015.

"When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in harm's way. By the end of this year, we will have less than 10,000," the president said.

The remaining American forces would likely be bolstered by a few thousand Nato troops.

The post-war plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the US.

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, but US officials are confident that either of the candidates seeking to replace him will approve the pact.

Mr Obama revealed his plans just days after making a surprise visit it to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, where he met with military commanders.

The president heads to the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday, where he is expected to address his Afghan withdrawal plan as part of a larger speech on foreign policy.

Nearly 2,200 members of the US military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.