Obama plans to leave 5,000 troops in Afghanistan: report

According to White House, the move was based on ground realities.

U.S. President Barack Obama is considering a proposal to keep some 5,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond 2016, according to a media report.

Such a move “would end” Mr. Obama’s plans to bring U.S. troops home before he leaves office on January 20, 2017, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

‘Move based on ground realities’

“As the President makes these kinds of policy decisions, he certainly takes into account the conditions on the ground and the advice that he receives from our military personnel that are serving on the front lines,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.

Responding to a question on the report, Mr. Earnest said Obama also had a responsibility to broaden his perspective and to make sure that he was considering the full range of impacts of a decision like this.

‘U.S. security interests in mind’

“So the President wants to look at the long-term trajectory of our presence in Afghanistan, and factor in both what our experience has been in recent years, but also how best to account for the United States’ national security interests inside of Afghanistan,” he said.

“The reason that the U.S. has been involved in Afghanistan — and this has been at the centre of the President’s strategy for Afghanistan — is making sure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a safe haven for terrorists to plot and carry out attacks against the United States or our interests around the world.

“And obviously, an important part of accomplishing that mission is improving the security situation inside of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the U.S. continued to work closely with Afghan security forces as they try to provide for their own security.

Counter-terrorism ops

“There are U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan that are conducting counter-terrorism operations to protect the American people, but also continuing to offer some training and advice to Afghan security forces that are trying to secure their country,” Mr. Earnest said.

According to The Washington Post, such a proposal was presented in August by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

‘Lily-pad bases’

“The Dempsey plan envisions the U.S. maintaining a few bases — perhaps two or three — that could be used as “lily-pads” to launch strikes against groups that threaten the United States, senior defence and administration officials said,” the daily reported.

“The lily-pad bases would potentially house American drones and fighter jets as well as elite counterterrorism troops, and could be at Bagram airbase north of Kabul and one or two other airfields,” said senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.