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World/National News

May 26, 2014

Obama signals to keep limited Afghanistan role

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan for a surprise visit yesterday and made clear that the U.S. will likely maintain a limited role here even after its combat mission ends this year and America’s longest war comes to a close.

“America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan will endure,” he pledged.

Speaking to troops gathered in an airplane hangar on this sprawling military base, Obama said the war had reached a pivotal point, with Afghan forces assuming primary responsibility for their country’s security. But while many of the 32,800 U.S. forces now in Afghanistan will leave in the coming months, Obama said a continued military presence could help protect gains made during nearly 13 years of fighting.

“After all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win and we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country,” Obama declared.

At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.

Obama told the troops, “For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan,” a comment was met with an eruption of applause. “America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.”

The president appeared optimistic that the Afghan government soon would sign a bilateral security agreement allowing the U.S. to keep some forces in the country to train Afghans and launch counterterrorism operations. He has been considering keeping up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and said he would announce his decision shortly.

That announcement could come as early as Wednesday, when Obama delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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