Hagel said the U.S. will keep up to 10,800 troops for the first few months of next year and then restart the drawdown, which is scheduled to reach 5,500 troops by the end of 2015.

The U.S. decided to keep additional forces in the country temporarily because planned troop commitments by U.S. allies for a NATO train-and-assist mission starting in January have been slow to materialize.

President Barack Obama “has provided U.S. military commanders the flexibility to manage any temporary force shortfall that we might experience for a few months as we allow for coalition troops to arrive in theater,” he said. “But the president’s authorization will not change our troops’ missions, or the long-term timeline for our drawdown,” he added.