Bowing to a request from his Afghan counterpart, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday decided to maintain the current troop level of 9,800 in Afghanistan through the end of the current year.
"Based on President Ghani’s request for flexibility in the drawdown timeline, the US will maintain its current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of 2015,” , an official announcement said after talks between the two leaders.
The specific trajectory of the 2016 US troop drawdown would be established later in 2015 to enable the American force consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016, the joint statement said.
It added: “This flexibility reflects the re-invigorated partnership, which is aimed at making Afghanistan secure and preventing it from being used to launch terrorist attacks."
Reconciliation and a political settlement remained the surest way to achieve the full retrograde of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan in a way that safeguards international interests and peace in Afghanistan.
Obama welcomed Afghan-Pakistan peace talks initiated by Ghani and reiterated his support for Kabul-led negotiations with the Taliban. “Obama welcomed recent developments in Afghan-Pakistani relations."
Both leaders emphasised the importance of continued efforts to advance Afghan-Pakistan dialogue aimed at building trust and producing tangible progress in the peace process, and improving the security situation in the region.
While reaffirming their determination to cooperate against those who advocate violence and extremism, Obama and Ghani stressed the need for an Afghan-led peace process, enjoying regional support, in particular from Pakistan.
As a part of the outcome of any such process, the Taliban and other armed groups must end violence, break ties with international terrorist groups and accept Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for the rights of women and minorities.
"Ghani and Chief Executive (Abdullah emphasised their mutual and strong determination to advance a reconciliation process based on these principles," said the statement at the end of the White House meeting.
Obama reaffirmed strong US support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and committed to make available additional financial support for the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) to facilitate the peaceful reintegration of former combatants into their local communities.
Calling on all countries in the region to support Afghanistan’s security and prosperity, the presidents endorsed efforts to deepen the Heart of Asia Process and expressed appreciation to China for hosting the October 2014 summit and to Pakistan for hosting the next meeting this year.
"The visit offered an opportunity to renew US-Afghan relations, review the joint achievements of the last 13 years in Afghanistan, and to discuss the actions each country needs to take to ensure that the social, economic, security and human rights gains made over that period are sustained and advanced,” the statement said.