The Obama administration is reversing its plans to cut the amount of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year, appeasing military leaders who want to keep more troops into 2016, U.S. officials say.
Officials have said the administration is poised to slow the withdrawal of forces and probably will allow most of the 9,800 American troops to remain in the embattled country, although no final decision on numbers has been made yet.
There have also been discussions to keep counterterrorism troops into 2015 and keep some in the country or be near Afghanistan in 2016.
There are about 2,000 U.S. troops conducting counterterrorism missions and military leaders have argued that they will need to continue their efforts to pursue remnants of Al Qeada and to monitor the Islamic State.
Officials expected President Obama to use a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this month as the time to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.
U.S. officials familiar with the debate said it’s not clear yet whether the White House will agree to a small, symbolic decrease by the end of this year or insist on a larger cut. They note that there is some stiff opposition to any change, largely from national security adviser Susan Rice.