Nawaz heads to White House to discuss Afghan reconciliation

WASHINGTON, Oct 15: US President Barack Obama on Thursday, in an address to his nation from the White House, said he would meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 22 to discuss his plan for peace in the Pak-Afghan region.

Obama also announced a plan to keep 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan into 2017, cancelling his earlier plan to bring home most of the troops before he leaves office.

The US president said he held extensive consultations with his commanders in Afghanistan, the US national security team, international partners and Afghan leaders before making the announcement.

Obama also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday to discuss this plan and also discussed with him the Afghan-led reconciliation process.

The US troops will operate from three bases in Bagram, Jalalabad and Qandahar and will be able to operate quickly when needed.

He also slowed the pace of the reduction of American forces and plans to maintain the current US force of 9,800 through most of 2016.

Obama called the new war plan a “modest but meaningful” extension of the US military mission in Afghanistan, which he originally planned to end next year.

The US president acknowledged his country’s weariness of the lengthy conflict but said he was “firmly convinced we should make this extra effort.”

Military leaders have argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the US 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.

It will be up to Obama’s successor — the third US 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 Joseph Dunford as he announced the plan.

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