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​The commander of US forces in Afghanistan on Thursday praised President Obama’s decision to halt the withdrawal of troops from that country. Keeping 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan “provides us the ability to further develop a lasting strategic relationship with our Afghan partners and allows us to counter the rise of violent extremism in a volatile part of the world,” Army Gen. John Campbell said in a written statement. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move “paves the way for a sustained presence by NATO allies and partners,” and will be an important factor as NATO considers the way ahead in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that Afghanistan “is on a better path, but more work lies ahead, and American national security remains very much at stake in that part of the world.” While the US will eventually reduce its footprint in Afghanistan, Carter said it will not reduce the commitment “to the country and its people.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been critical of Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and said Thursday he is pleased the President decided to keep US troops there beyond 2016, inside and outside of Kabul. Still, he said, he is “concerned that the number of troops will not be sufficient to perform the critical tasks being set for them: counterterrorism and continuing to train and advise our Afghan partners."