President Obama on Wednesday said the United States will keep about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of his second term in office, a change from the planned drawdown to 5,500 troops by the end of this year. Speaking alongside Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford at the White House, Obama said the current mission, which is focused on training and advising Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorist operations, will not change. “But even these narrow missions continue to be dangerous,” the President acknowledged. Thirty-eight Americans—military and civilian—have died in Afghanistan since the end of combat operations a year and a half ago. “And we resolve to carry on the mission for which they gave their last full measure of devotion,” Obama said. The most recent change to the US strategy and force structure in Afghanistan was based on the recommendation of Army Gen. John Nicholson, who assumed command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan earlier this year, as well as members of his national security team. Last month, Obama also granted broader authority to Nicholson to decide when US troops can accompany conventional Afghan forces in the field. Obama said his decision to keep more troops in the country reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan, but he also called on allies and partners to “align their own commitments.” This week’s NATO Summit in Warsaw “will be an opportunity for more allies and partners to affirm their contributions,” which he said he is “confident they will.” Obama leaves Thursday for Warsaw, where he said he will meet with Afghanistan President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. (Obama transcript.) (See also: Capability Gaps Remain in Afghanistan.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.