WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce Tuesday that 9,800 American troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, should the Afghan government sign the bilateral security agreement.
The White House said an announcement is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. EST.
According to a senior administration official, "He will announce that our combat mission will be over by the end of 2014. He will make clear that we are open to continued efforts in Afghanistan on two narrow missions after 2014: training Afghan Forces and supporting CT operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda."
With Afghan President Hamid Karzai's tenure at an end, the Obama administration has expressed optimism that new Afghan leadership will sign the bilateral security agreement.
"Assuming a BSA is signed, at the beginning of 2015, we will have 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners. By the end of 2015, we would reduce that presence by roughly half, consolidating U.S. troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield. And one year later, by the end of 2016, we will draw down to a normal Embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul, as we have done in Iraq," said the senior administration official."
The expected announcement comes after Obama surprised U.S. troops in Afghanistan with a visit to Bagram Airfield on Sunday. During a rally with 3,000 American troops in a nearby hangar, the president reiterated his commitment that, once the BSA is signed, "We are going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again -- ever -- be used to launch a terrorist attack against our country."