Obama says he'll keep more troops in 'fragile' Afghanistan

President Obama Announces Reversal on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal Plan

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and 5,500 when he leaves office in 2017, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands off the conflict to a successor.

Obama called the new war plan a "modest but meaningful" extension of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, which he originally planned to end next year. He acknowledged America's weariness of the lengthy conflict but said he was "firmly convinced we should make this extra effort."

SEE ALSO: Did Hillary Clinton really win the first Democratic debate?

Military leaders have argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the U.S. to beat back a resurgent Taliban and hold onto gains made over the past 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid. In his remarks from the White House Thursday, Obama said that while Afghan forces have made progress, the security situation in the country remains fragile.

See photos of daily life for U.S. troops in Afghanistan:

17 PHOTOS
U.S. military in Afghanistan
See Gallery
Obama says he'll keep more troops in 'fragile' Afghanistan
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 13, 2015, US army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 14, 2015, US army soldiers load ammunition into rifles during a military exercise inside coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
US soldiers part of NATO patrol during the final day of a month long anti-Taliban operation by the Afghan National Army (ANA) in various parts of eastern Nangarhar province, at an Afghan National Army base in Khogyani district on August 30, 2015. Afghan security forces launched a joint anti-militant operation in three districts, killing over 150 armed insurgents and wounding 112 others with 13 security personnel killed and three others were wounded in the past 30 days, Afghan National Army Commander Zaman Waziri said. AFP PHOTO / Noorullah Shirzada (Photo credit should read Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 14, 2015, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers are served lunch at a kitchen inside a base in the Khogyani districtin the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 14, 2015, US army soldiers fire during a military exercise inside coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier stands guard at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, US army personnel keep watch at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, US army soldiers play basketball at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 14, 2015, a US army soldier and military dog keep watch as Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers walk through coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier takes aim during a military exercise at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 13, 2015, US army and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 13, 2015, US army soldiers play chess inside coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier poses for a photograph at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier looks on with binoculars at Coalition forces Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier stands guard at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier plays on a smartphone as he lies on a bed at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, US army soldiers walk past an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. 'They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. 'Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

After lengthy internal deliberations, Obama settled on a plan to maintain the current force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017, at a pace still to be determined after consultation with commanders.

It will be up to Obama's successor - the third U.S. commander in chief to oversee the war - to decide how to proceed from there.

"I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president," Obama said, standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Until now, Afghanistan has barely been a factor in the 2016 presidential campaign. But Obama's announcement could send candidates in both parties scrambling to outline their own plans for a war they could inherit.

Republican candidate Jeb Bush said he was glad Obama "dropped his plan to abandon the region entirely." But he added that if the president is committed to securing a stable Afghanistan, "he shouldn't shortchange what our military commanders have said they need to complete the mission."

Obama's plan largely lines up with what military commanders had requested, though some proposals have called for higher numbers. Key to the commanders' requests was a continuation of the current counterterrorism mission, which Obama said would indeed be part of the effort after 2016.

The second part of the U.S. mission is training and assisting Afghan security forces, which are now in charge of combat operations across the country. The American forces will be based in Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, as well as bases in Jalalabad and Kandahar.

Obama now faces the prospect of passing on to his successor active U.S. military missions in two countries he vowed to withdraw from: Iraq and Afghanistan.

ALSO READ: Taste of winter to visit midwest, northeast with snow showers

The president did withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, an action he heralded as a promise kept to a war-weary America. But the rise of the Islamic State drew the U.S. military back into Iraq last year to train and assist local security forces and to launch airstrikes, a campaign Obama has said will likely last beyond his term in office.

On Thursday, Obama insisted he wasn't disappointed to not be fulfilling his pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan before he leaves.

U.S. officials have hinted at the policy shift for weeks. They have noted that conditions in the country have changed since his initial decision on a sharper troop withdrawal timeline more than two years ago. The White House also has been buoyed by having a more reliable partner in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who succeeded the mercurial Hamid Karzai last year.

"We cannot separate the importance of governance from the importance of security," Obama said.

Military personnel under the Obama administration (via Graphiq):

ALSO READ: Astronaut Scott Kelly shares stunning photos of Australia taken from ISS

The president's decision was reinforced when Taliban fighters took control of the key northern city of Kunduz late last month, leading to a protracted battle with Afghan forces supported by U.S. airstrikes. During the fighting, a U.S. air attack hit a hospital, killing 12 Doctors Without Borders staff and 10 patients.

Beyond the recent security troubles in Afghanistan, U.S. commanders have expressed concern about Islamic State fighters moving into the country and gaining recruits from within the Taliban.

Officials said discussions on staying in Afghanistan longer began during Ghani's visit to Washington in March. The top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. John Campbell, recently presented Obama with a range of options calling for keeping more troops there, based on his judgment of what it would take to sustain the Afghan army and minimize the chances of losing more ground.

Officials said NATO allies had expressed support for extending the troop presence in Afghanistan, but they did not outline any specific commitments from other nations.

Last week, during a meeting of defense ministers, Carter urged allies to remain flexible and consider abandoning their earlier timelines to cut troop levels. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and defense ministers were quick to agree, saying the size of the force should be based on security conditions rather than a fixed timeline.

RELATED: See the president's surprise trip to Afghanistan last year

10 PHOTOS
Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan
See Gallery
Obama says he'll keep more troops in 'fragile' Afghanistan
US President Barack Obama does a Hawaiian 'shaka' as he greets US troops during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets US troops during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets US troops during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets US troops during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets US troops during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama addresses US troops during a surprise to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a surprise visit with US troops at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, on a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

More from AOL.com:
Arkansas church kicks out member for being gay with this scathing letter
Customs computer crash causes airport delays nationwide
Police unsure what 'sins' provoked attack on brothers

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.