The White House announced Tuesday that the U.S. will keep its current complement of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, instead of cutting the number by about half as originally planned.
The U.S. administration added that the size of the U.S. troop presence for 2016 will be decided later this year.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had asked Obama to slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from his country. That's because Afghan security forces are bracing for a tough spring fighting season and are also contending with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) looking to recruit on their soil.
The original plan was to cut the 9,800 troops to 5,500 by the end of this year.
"Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place," Obama said in explaining his decision at a press conference after Ghani's first visit to the White House since his election six months ago. Obama added that the size of the U.S. troop presence for 2016 will be decided later this year.
Obama said he still intends to complete the drawdown by the end of 2016 and that the U.S. transition out of a combat role has not changed.
"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to help Afghan security forces succeed so we don't have to go back," Obama said. He said he and the U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have concluded the extra time in the country "is well worth it."
Ghani thanked American servicemen and women and civilian contractors. "I'd also like to thank the American taxpayer for his and her hard-earned dollars," he said.
"Tragedy brought us together; interests now unite us," Ghani said.
He said the slower U.S. troop withdrawal "will be used to accelerate reforms, to ensure that the Afghan National Security Forces are much better led, equipped, trained and are focused on their fundamental mission. He added that he was pleased to say that "the departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap or collapse that was often anticipated."
In Washington this week, Ghani is making his case that he's a reliable partner worthy of American support, despite his fractured government and a litany of problems still rampant in Afghanistan's military — illiteracy, drug abuse and desertions, to name a few.