The United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for most of next year and then maintain 5,500 troops at a few bases, including Bagram, Jalalabad, and Kandahar in 2017, President Obama announced Thursday. Afghans are fighting “bravely and tenaciously,” and making progress, but security forces are “still not as strong as they need to be,” Obama said in an address from the White House, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford. “The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places, there is risk of deterioration,” he said, noting that US troops will focus on training Afghan forces or counterterrorism missions. The drawdown plan Obama announced in 2014 called for reducing the number of US troops in Afghanistan to roughly 5,000 by the end of this year and moving to a “normal embassy presence” in Kabul by the end of 2016. But in March, Obama announced the US would keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2015. Thursday, Obama stressed that “the nature of the mission has not changed, and the cessation of our combat role has not changed.” Afghan forces “are out there fighting and dying to protect their country. They’re not looking for us to do it for them,” he said. (See also Capability Gaps Remain in Afghanistan.) (Listen? to the address.)
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.