Increased 2015 Troop Presence in Afghanistan Announced

In a joint appearance with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the Obama Administration was adjusting its planned troop drawdown and would keep an additional 1,000 US troops in the country into 2015. While stressing that the US combat role in Afghanistan has ended, Hagel said during the Dec. 6 press briefing “prior delays” to signing the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement and the new NATO status-of-forces agreement caused efforts to generate the forces for Operation Resolute Support, NATO’s post-combat training, advising, and assisting mission, to fall behind. That means up to 10,800 US troops could remain in Afghanistan through the “first few months next year,” he said, up from the planned 9,800. Resolute Support will focus primarily around Kabul and at Bagram Airfield, with a “limited regional presence,” said Hagel. US forces would provide “limited combat-enabler support” to Afghan forces. They would also take “appropriate measures” against Taliban forces who directly threaten US and coalition troops, or who provide direct support to al Qaeda, he said. Taliban attacks in and around Kabul have spiked in the aftermath of the country’s parliament approving the BSA and the ORS mission. (Hagel-Ghani transcript)