Story highlights

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani requested continuing presence of U.S. troops

President Barack Obama said U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan at their current levels through much of 2016

There are currently about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan

CNN —  

So, you thought the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan?

Then you were mistaken because, the fact is, America has never left the war-torn Asian nation. And it won’t be heading out anytime soon.

Following a request by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, President Barack Obama said that U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan at their current levels of 9,800 troops through much of 2016. The new plan calls for a drop to 5,500 troops by early 2017, when Obama’s second and final term ends.

This announcement comes 10 months after Obama declared an end to the American military’s combat mission, and after years of talk of a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over,” Obama said Thursday in announcing the latest plan, “our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.”

The war was deadliest for the U.S. in 2010

The September 11, 2001, attacks led the United States to invade Afghanistan. The United States quickly dislodged the Taliban government that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which orchestrated the terrorism. A U.S.-led coalition battled the Taliban for years after a new Afghan government took charge.

Nearly 7 in 10 coalition military members killed in Afghanistan were Americans, though the United Kingdom also lost several hundred service members. Also killed: Military men and women from Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

Some parts of the country are more dangerous

Southern Afghanistan has been home for much of the deadliest of fighting. That’s not too surprising: The Taliban had set up headquarters there in Kandahar. The U.S. ground war began there in 2001, and the Taliban fled Kandahar shortly after the Marines landed and took control of the airport.

The Taliban just won their biggest victory since 2001

The Taliban made headlines recently by capturing the northern city of Kunduz, the group’s biggest military victory since 2001. The group didn’t hold it for long, but the news took many by surprise. Experts who follow Afghanistan more closely say one reason for the Taliban’s resurgence is pervasive corruption in the Afghan government – ranked among the worst by Transparency International, a group that monitors global corruption.

Most corrupt nations

Afghanistan has one of the highest levels of perceived corruption according to Transparency International.

Rank Country
1 (tie)Somalia
1 (tie)North Korea
5South Sudan
8 (tie)Uzbekistan
8 (tie)Libya
8 (tie)Eritrea

Attack on hospital renews attention on the war

On October 3, not long after the Afghan military recaptured Kunduz from the Taliban, a U.S. gunship launched an airstrike and accidentally struck a Doctors Without Borders hospital in that city, the U.S. military said.

The attack killed 12 medical staff members, seven adult patients and three children patients.

The bombardment of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian group’s outpost was a tragic mistake, according to the U.S. government. The event also highlighted the degree to which the United States remains rooted in Afghanistan despite popular perceptions to the contrary.

CNN’s Greg Botelho and Julie In contributed to this report.