Obama slows pace of US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan

Updated: 2015-10-16 00:22


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US military and administration officials have been discussing a slower timetable since the March visit to the White House of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Obama spoke to the leaders on Wednesday, he said.

Ghani has been more supportive of the US presence than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai. Obama stressed that he viewed Washington as having a solid partner in the Afghan president.

Keeping 5,500 troops at four locations will cost about $14.6 billion per year, up from the estimated cost of $10 billion to keep a consolidated force at the Kabul embassy, officials said.

Obama said he would work with NATO allies, who also have indicated some interest in sustaining their presence. There are more than 6,000 non-US forces in Afghanistan as part of the "Resolute Support" mission.

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, sent a US-led force into Afghanistan soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, aiming to destroy al Qaeda and to oust the then-ruling Taliban that had sheltered the militant group.

The foreign ministry of Russia, which was engaged in a nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said on Thursday it doubted the US decision would ease the situation in the country, RIA news agency reported. Washington has been critical of Russia's move to engage militarily to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's four-year civil war.

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