Updated 3:17 pm ET
Speaking in the Rose Garden this afternoon, President Obama announced that the United States will withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
Obama will reduce the current contingent of 32,000 troops to 9,800 by the end of 2014, cut the total to about 5,000 in 2015, and then establish a normal U.S. diplomatic presence in the country the following year.
Everything is contingent on the Afghanis agreeing to sign a deal that would keep U.S. troops in the country. Both men contending for the presidency have said they would sign.
Of course, Obama has come in below what was recommended to him by military commanders, who said at least 10,000 troops should remain in country.
The timetable also seems informed by Obama’s desire to end the Afghan war on his watch – and be able to take credit for doing so – with operations concluding just before a new president takes office.
The troops that remain this year will support Afghani counterterrorism missions – and I presume, conduct some on their own – but next year they will be consolidated in Kabul and on Bagram Air Base.