United States President Barack Obama may not decide before a NATO summit next month whether to alter plans to nearly halve America’s forces in Afghanistan, a diplomat and a U.S. official said.
A decision had been expected at or before the summit in Warsaw on July 8-9 on whether to stick to plans to slash the 9,800 troops to 5,500 before Obama leaves office next year.
Former commanders and envoys have warned that it would be a mistake. And with preparations in full swing for the summit, the timing of any decision by Obama remains unclear.
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U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter flies to Brussels on Monday to meet NATO counterparts, with Afghanistan expected to be high on the agenda.
One reason to decide on slowing the U.S. drawdown before the summit might be to encourage NATO allies to keep their troops in Afghanistan, where President Ashraf Ghani’s government is battling a Taliban insurgency that has gathered fresh momentum.
NATO allies seem less intent on cutting their troop presence, which could give Obama more time to formulate and telegraph his own plans.
“We have been moderately, pleasantly surprised at the willingness to stay at current levels of most other allies, and some willingness to consider increasing,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Just because there is a summit doesn’t mean (you) need a decision,” he added.
To be sure, Afghanistan will be a major issue at the summit and Obama still could make a decision before then.
“It does not have to happen by Warsaw but it certainly will be a topic there,” said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The size and scope of other nation contributions are a logical consideration in our decision-making.”