WASHINGTON – A White House official Friday appeared to leave open the possibility that U.S. troops could remain in Afghanistan after President Obama leaves office, in what would be a marked shift from the administration's insistence that only a small force to protect the embassy in Kabul would remain after 2016.
With the Taliban insurgency still raging, the administration has been weighing options to slow the pullout of the roughly 10,000 U.S. troops and thousands of contractors in Afghanistan. The number of troops was supposed to be cut by almost half at the end of this year, but officials have said in recent days that Obama was nearing a decision to keep much of the current force in place well into next year to continue training and advising Afghan forces.
Jeff Eggers, a senior National Security Council official, said that the administration refused to rule out the possibility that some troops could remain into 2017.
But separately, Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the council, said, "President Obama has not opened the door to anything larger than an embassy force after 2016."
Eggers' comments are in line with what other officials say is being debated within the administration.
Realities on the ground appear to be forcing U.S. officials to consider shifting strategies for ending the war.
New York Times