US troops to stay in Afghanistan in policy shift
President Barack Obama has confirmed plans to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2016, in a shift in policy.
Speaking at the White House, he said the US would keep 5,500 troops in the country when he leaves office in 2017.
Originally all but a small embassy-based force were due to leave by the end of next year.
But the US military says more troops will be needed to help Afghan forces counter a growing Taliban threat.
There are currently 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan. Last week, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Campbell, said the US must consider extending its military presence there beyond 2016.
The US forces will be stationed in four locations - in Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
President Obama had previously planned to reduce the number of troops left in Afghanistan to about 1,000 by the time he left office in January 2017.
A statement from the US National Security Council said the change in policy was the “result of an extensive, months-long review”, and after Mr Obama had consulted “with his full national security team and our Afghan partners”.
“This announcement in no way changes the fact that our combat mission in Afghanistan has ended, and we will continue to undertake only two narrow missions: counterterrorism and training, advising, and assisting our Afghan partners,” the statement went on.
More troops are needed, officials say, to counter a growing Taliban threat