Pitched as a winding down of the war effort, President Obama revealed Tuesday his intention to keep as many as 9,800 combat troops in Afghanistan until 2016 and perhaps beyond.

If all goes according to plan, and the Afghanistan government agrees (a hurdle that has not been jumped), half of the 9,800 would come home in 2015. The rest would stay another year, although some unidentified number could remain indefinitely.

It’s a far cry from Dick Cheney’s neoconservative fantasy of installing American military bases of power throughout the Muslim world, but it still means American fighting men and women will remain “over there” for … well, we just don’t know how long.

“Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden. It’s not America’s responsibility to make Afghanistan a perfect place, he said, adding, “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”

According to The New York Times, “The 9,800 troops left behind is a larger number than some in the administration had wanted, but the sharp decline in American combat deaths this year has removed some of the pressure to bring the troops out faster.”

The paper reports that there are currently 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Obama said that his proposal was made in consultation with Congress and his national security advisers. He also noted that Afghanistan is in a period of political transition, having begun to vote for a new government. Afghan authorities will need to approve any American presence in their country, something that has been difficult for the U.S. to negotiate thus far.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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