The United States plans to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan to below the 10,000 troop level this year and to completely end its military intervention in the country by the end of 2016, a senior official said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama was expected to announce the plan, which remains conditional to the Afghan government agreeing to sign a joint security agreement with its US ally, later in the day.
“We will only sustain a military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement,” the senior administration official told reporters.
“Assuming a BSA is signed, at the beginning of 2015, we will have 9,800 US service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners,” the official continued.
“By the end of 2015, we would reduce that presence by roughly half, consolidating US troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield.
“And one year later, by the end of 2016, we will draw down to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul, as we have done in Iraq.”
Obama visited US forces in Afghanistan on Sunday, and spoke briefly by telephone with outgoing Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, who is due to step down this year after a June election run-off.
Both candidates in that run-off vote, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have indicated they would sign the security agreement proposed by Washington if elected president.
Around 51,000 US-led NATO troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan supporting Kabul in its fight against Taliban rebels, who launched a fierce insurgency after being ousted from power in 2001.