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US forces to remain in Afghanistan for a very long time: Pentagon official

An official at the US Defense Department says American forces will remain in Afghanistan for “a very long time,” despite a former plan  to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end.

“What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave [Afghanistan],” a senior Pentagon official told The Washington Post. “The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the Afghan army and police force “are not going to be ready in three years or five years. You have to be there for a very long time.”

There are currently 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan, some of them advising local forces and some purportedly focused on fighting al-Qaeda and other militants.

Although Washington had officially announced an intention to pull out the majority of the US troops from Afghanistan in 2014, those plans have changed, and a scaling back would reportedly begin in 2017 at the earliest.

The White House has not announced any plans to completely end its military operations in Afghanistan.

“This is not a region you want to abandon,” said Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon official. Flournoy is considered a top candidate for the position of the secretary of defense in a potential administration of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

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