The U.S. will leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan following the troop withdrawal slated for December, if Afghanistan's new president will agree to a bilateral security agreement.
A senior White House official broke the news today, adding that President Barack Obama will formally make the announcement later this afternoon. The plan is for the remaining troops to be stationed in the country through next year, focusing on training and advising the Afghan military as well as, according to the official, fighting the "remnants of al Qaeda." In 2016, the number of troops in Afghanistan will be reduced by half, and by the end of the year only a defense group will remain in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai spent much of last year waffling on whether or not to sign the agreement and ultimately decided not to do so, making it difficult for Washington to figure out a withdrawal plan. But now Karzai is on his way out, and the two candidates who will face each other in runoff elections slated for June have both said they will sign the agreement -- allowing the Obama administration to finally decide on steps for the future.