President Obama: Combat in Afghanistan to end in 2014

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This year is a “pivotal year” in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters Tuesday, saying that 2014 will mark the conclusion of the U.S. combat mission there.

“We will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end,” Obama said.

President Obama said Tuesday that he wants more than 9,800 U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, with the number cut roughly in half by the end of 2015.

By the end of 2016, he said, the military “will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component.”

The announcement offers something to proponents and opponents of a continued U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan after more than a decade of war — the longest in American history.

Currently, the United States has 32,000 troops in Afghanistan.

In a background call with journalists before Obama’s announcement, senior administration officials said the intention was to show continued international support for Afghanistan as it transitions to its new elected government.

Some NATO forces would join U.S. troops remaining beyond 2014, the officials noted.

The successful first round of voting showed Afghanistan forces now were capable of providing security, the officials said.

Until now, Obama’s administration has been reluctant to assign a number to American troop strength in Afghanistan once the combat mission ends. A continuing U.S. mission after that will focus on training and counter-terrorism operations.

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