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Why is US military contingent staying in Afghanistan?

October 16, 2015, 20:52 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, October 16. /TASS/. A decision by US President Barack Obama to keep the American military contingent in Afghanistan can be explained by several reasons, Russian experts say.

On the one hand, the recent events when the Taliban forces seized the strategically important town of Kunduz have proved once again the weakness of the Afghan army prepared by the United States and NATO. On the other hand, the factor of Russia’s active participation in the struggle against the Islamic State in Syria played a certain role in making this decision.

The United States has stated that 9,800-strong US personnel will stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2016 and the number of American troops will be cut to 5,500 men in 2017.

Obama also didn’t rule out that the US would continue keeping its military contingent in Afghanistan indefinitely. Under the US original plan of troops’ withdrawal, only the embassy’s security force was expected to stay in Afghanistan by late 2016. A contingent of another 6,000 servicemen from other countries, primarily NATO member states, is also operational in Afghanistan.

The US military has spent millions of US dollars on the Afghan army’s training, preparing 7,000 soldiers and officers. However, their combat efficiency remains low, experts say. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday Russia was ready to "render assistance in strengthening the combat efficiency of the army and security forces of Afghanistan where the military and political situation has deteriorated sharply."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a session of the Council of the CIS Heads of State on Friday that the situation in Afghanistan was especially alarming.

"The situation is, indeed, close to critical. Terrorists of various sorts are gaining ever more influence and do not conceal their plans of further expansion. One of their goals is to get into the Central Asian region. It is important for us to be ready to respond to such a scenario in a coordinated manner," Putin said.

A source of web portal in Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said the US policy in Afghanistan is "unsystematic."

"This is a strategy of one push after another," the source said, adding the security level had only diminished during the US military contingent’s stay in Afghanistan while drug trafficking had only increased.

The US president’s decision to keep the American troops in Afghanistan can be also partly explained by the internal political situation in the United States amid upcoming presidential elections and statements by the Obama administration’s critics that American troops have failed to completely crush terror organizations, primarily the Taliban, in Afghanistan, leading Researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Political Sciences Dina Malysheva said.

"The delay with the withdrawal of US and NATO troops is also explained by the Taliban’s latest military successes and the seizure of Kunduz," the expert told TASS.

"On the other hand, this decision is indirectly linked with what we’re witnessing in Syria where the Russian Aerospace Force is achieving the successes, which the US forces and their allies have failed to achieve," she added.

According to the expert, the Afghan government has naturally welcomed this decision "because it understands that even local armed forces trained by American and NATO instructors are failing to cope with their tasks like the armed forces prepared by the Americans in Iraq failed." "They finally surrendered everything to the Islamic State."

"Another question is what the American contingent will actually be able to do in Afghanistan, if the contingent exceeding its strength by many times and already withdrawn from the country has failed to achieve anything? So, this is a propaganda action to a certain degree," the expert said.

The expert said she disagreed with those who said that the United States was specially leaving troops in Afghanistan to destabilize the situation.

"No one is interested in destabilization there. But Russia and its partners in Central Asia should not expect someone to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. What is happening there is a challenge for them and they should respond to it as decisively as Russia reacted to the situation in Syria because it indirectly threatens its national interests."

Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghanistan Studies Omar Nessar believes that there is still a certain benefit from the US contingent’s stay in the country.

"The events in Kunduz, which was taken back from the Taliban grouping in several days, have showed that even a small contingent of troops is capable of reversing the situation," he told TASS.

"Aviation support is of special importance as the Afghan army actually lacks aviation. The Afghan army depends on external assistance not only financial and also military," he said.

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