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America's New Policy In Afghanistan Is Not A 'Drawdown'

A Marine in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2008.
DVIDSHUB/ Flickr Creative Commons

Two years ago, President Barack Obama announced that by the time he left office in 2017 the only American troops in Afghanistan would be stationed at the embassy in Kabul.

Today, he outlined a new policy. Pointing to security issues within that country and terrorist groups threatening to take advantage of their precarious stability, Obama announced he is committing 8,400 troops to remain in Afghanistan until the close of his term. 

It's a move that many news outlets described as "slowing the drawdown," but to homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, it isn't a drawdown at all.

"We have 9,800 troops, we're going to have 8,400 or 8,500 by the end of this year," she said. "You can't call that a drawdown. The status quo is going to remain."

Kayyem said Obama likely made the announcement with two audiences in mind: America's partners abroad in NATO, and his successor to the presidency.

Obama is slated to meet with NATO leaders in Poland within the next several days to discuss strategy in Afghanistan. The pledge to keep American troop levels stable is likely meant to shore up support from NATO partners, even amid an uncertain political climate in Europe after Britain's surprising vote to leave the European Union last month.

"To get them to remain omitted, especially given the environment in NATO and in Europe, us doing a drawdown was probably a hard message to make: that they need to remain omitted or increase, and meanwhile we’re going to draw down,” Kayyem said.

Obama is also looking ahead to the next president who will occupy the White House, whether that will be Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"This is one for the next team," she said.

To hear more from homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.

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