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    Obama's Fear Behind Continued US Presence in Afghanistan - Expert

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    Expert on the Middle East politics claims that Behind the possible shift of the deadline for US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is Obama's attempt to reaffirm the United States’ image as a superpower and his fear of being criticized for security deterioration at home.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko — Behind the possible shift of the deadline for US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is Obama's attempt to reaffirm the United States’ image as a superpower and his fear of being criticized for security deterioration at home, an expert on the Middle East politics told Sputnik on Tuesday.

    The United States may slow down the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in order to ensure the progress that has been reached during more than a decade of fighting against the Taliban, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced during his visit to Kabul last week.

    "The main issue here is US credibility as a superpower, and the continuous need to affirm and then reaffirm this credibility through military action, combined with a concern that any Taliban success will damage US credibility," David Gibbs, professor of history at the University of Arizona told Sputnik.

    At the moment, US military presence is expected to be cut to 5,500 troops by the middle of 2015, and to be equal to a normal embassy presence by the end of 2016.

    "President Obama fears that any deterioration in the Afghan security situation will elicit criticisms of his own leadership, especially in light of the fact that he himself has no military record," Gibbs added.

    According to the expert, any shifting of the deadline could lead to a renewed US war effort in Afghanistan. Moreover, defeating the Taliban would be no more realistic than it has been so far. Therefore, it may well become the war "with no clear end in sight and with little prospect of success".

    At the same time, other analysts hold a different view and claim that the US continued presence may help to preserve security in the country.

    "The profile is now slimmer, and it might be that it is more effectively integrated and working with Afghan military forces instead of dwarfing them as happened in the past," David Edwards, director of the Williams College's Afghan Media Project, told Sputnik.

    The United States is playing for time with the withdrawal in order to give Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani an opportunity to stay in power, Marvin Weinbaum, who served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the US Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told Sputnik.

    "If there is no funding, then the Afghan army would break up, and we would probably see not only advances of the Taliban, but a potential of civil war," Weinbaum claimed.

    Another issue that arises if the US withdrawal is postponed is the progress of the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

    On the one side, Taliban insurgents claim they are not going to engage in the talks with the government until there are no foreign troops in the country.

    "But the general feeling is that if there are no troops on the ground, then there are no reasons for the Taliban to negotiate… If there is an immediate withdrawal, such as they demand, the odds that the government would fail without the international support would assure the Taliban success," Weinbaum explained.

    On the other side, the Taliban is a highly fragmented movement. "The continued US presence might help encourage at least some factions within the Taliban to negotiate with Kabul," according to David Edwards.

    The United States withdrew combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of December 2014 after a 14-year occupation, but has kept a residual force of US troops among the approximately 10,000 in the region.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Related:

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    US Withdrawal From Afghanistan to Create Security Vacuum - John McCain
    US Should Maintain Residual Armed Forces in Afghanistan – John McCain
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