US Likely to Delay Closure of Bases in Afghanistan
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, an American official said.
This comes as Washington has said it is considering slowing its military pull-out from Afghanistan to ostensibly help the new government fight the Taliban.
The anticipated policy reversal reflects the US embrace of Afghanistan's new and more cooperative president, Ashraf Ghani.
The US official said conditions had changed since May when President Barack Obama declared that by the end of 2015 the US force would be roughly halved from the current total of about 10,000 and would operate only from bases in Kabul and Bagram, Reuters reported.
The White House had no immediate comment on the possibility of maintaining the Kandahar and Jalalabad bases into next year.
Obama is expected to decide in the next few days whether to slow the pace of the US troop withdrawal, possibly by next week when Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah travel to Washington.
US officials hope the visit will garner American public support for a longer military mission.
Obama had said last May the US military would draw down to a "normal embassy presence" with security assistance by the end of 2016. What constitutes a "normal embassy presence" is ambiguous, giving the president some leeway on the footprint after 2017.