President Obama's policy shift on keeping troops in Afghanistan gets mixed reaction

US soldiers on patrol in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan. Troops will remain longer than expected.Reuters

President Obama's plan to let US military troops stay in Afghanistan through the end of 2016 has received mixed responses from Republican politicians and ordinary citizens alike.

Last week, Obama announced that he will keep the present number of 9,800 US service members in Afghanistan through the end of 2016 before drawing down to 5,500 the following year. The delay in withdrawal of the troops prolongs a 14-year conflict that he pledged to wrap up by 2014, according to a report by WND.

"First, I've decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year," the President said during televised remarks from the White House recently.

"Second, I've decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops [and] a small number of bases... Third, we will work with allies and partners to align the steps I'm announcing today with their own presence in Afghanistan after 2016,'' he added.

The new mission from the President also emphasised that operations should be non-combatant.

But Republicans slammed the move of the President to extend the stay of the troops, claiming it was not "militarily sound.''

"He intentionally ignored all military advice to keep a residual force in Iraq," said Republican presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. "We paid a price — and this 5,500 number is not a militarily sound number."

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina also believe that the President had not listened well to the advice of his military commanders that the mission has to be finished.

Other US state officials, including House Speaker John Boehner hit Obama for making false promises and for neglecting the troop's safety and the nation's security. They also charged him with merely trying to contain the damage in Afghanistan before leaving office, WND reported.

Ohio Gov. John Kasic, meanwhile, described Obama's move as a "wise decision,'' adding "we're just not going to just go running out of there and lose all the things that we had invested over the years.''

During separate interviews, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also welcomed the move saying it was the "right thing to do.''

Obama earlier described his decision as a "modest but meaningful" extension of the US military mission in Afghanistan, even as military leaders have argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the US to beat back a resurgent Taliban.

He said the decision to delay withdrawal of troops resulted from months of consultation with national security advisers, Afghan leaderships and international partners. It also comes on the heels of the Taliban's first takeover of an Afghan city, at a time when "the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration.'