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US to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at year-end

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Troops for AfghanistanThe United States will keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the final withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in December and then will scale back most of those forces by the end of 2016, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.

The two-year plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. While outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the agreement, U.S. officials are confident that either candidate seeking to replace him would give his approval.

The plan calls for the U.S. military to draw down from its current force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops, dispatched throughout Afghanistan, would focus on counterterrorism and the training of Afghan security forces. They would not be engaged in combat missions.

"Our objectives are clear: disrupting threats posed by Al-Qaeda, supporting Afghan security forces and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own," President Barack Obama said in a speech at the White House on Tuesday.

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