President Obama surprised observers Wednesday when he announced the delay of a planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying a “precarious” security situation could benefit terrorists 15 years after the 9/11 attacks.

There will now be 8,400 U.S. troops in the country when Obama leaves office in January.

The Guardian reports:

The US president’s most recent estimate for that figure was 5,500. In 2012, he promised that the war would be over by 2014. …

The much slower-than-expected retreat from the current total of 9,800 US forces in Afghanistan comes amid a deteriorating security situation that the president warned could overwhelm Afghan government partners without further assistance.

“It’s in our national interest – after all the blood and treasure we have invested – that we give our Afghan partners the support to succeed,” said Obama.

“This is where al-Qaida is trying to regroup, where Isil is trying to expand its presence,” he added. “If they succeed, they will attempt more attacks against us.”

The decision appears to reflect successful lobbying by US military commanders to maintain forces as close to the current level as possible.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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