Ending America’s Longest War

Days after returning from a surprise trip to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama laid out his plans for ending America’s longest war. As expected, combat operations will end by the end of the year and Afghan forces will be “fully responsible” for their own security in 2015, said Obama Tuesday afternoon. “American personnel will be in an advisory role. We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people,” he said. Second, the US will be “cooperating with Afghans” on two very specific missions: “training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda,” added Obama. The number of US service members serving in Afghanistan will drop from some 32,000 today to around 9,800 in early 2015. “By the end of 2015, we will have reduced that presence by roughly half, and we will have consolidated our troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield,” said Obama. “One year later, by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq.” (Obama transcript.) (White House fact sheet on ending the war in Afghanistan.)