Obama to Address Nation Wednesday on Afghanistan

Posted June 21st, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The White House says President Barack Obama will address the nation Wednesday evening on his plans for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Spokesman Jay Carney says the president will lay out how he will implement the strategy he outlined in December 2009 on drawing down American troops.

In a briefing Tuesday, Carney said the president will focus in his speech on the first phase of the drawdown, which he said will be part of a gradual transition over the next several years to pass control of Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces.

The spokesman said the president, himself, decided how many troops to pull out and how quickly he wanted to withdraw them, and said predictions published in media reports are mere “speculation.”

Defense officials have been quoted saying the withdrawal to be announced Wednesday will likely total 10,000 by the end of this year — a 5,000 initial withdrawal followed by another 5,000 by year's end. The United States currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the president has to take into account sustainability at home, both in Congress and among the American public, as well as conditions on the ground in Afghanistan.

Gates acknowledged concerns in the United States about Afghanistan, saying the American people are “tired of a decade of war.” He noted there are “a lot of reservations” in Congress about the war and the level of U.S. commitment.

Gates spoke Tuesday at the State Department, before heading to the White House with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for consultations with the president about Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama announced the July start for the withdrawal in December 2009, when he presented his overall strategy for Afghanistan.

White House sopkesman Carney said the drawdown is the fulfillment of a commitment Mr. Obama made to the American people nearly two years ago, but he said Mr. Obama has also remained focused on achieving his objectives in Afghanistan. He noted, however, that Mr. Obama's objectives there do not require defeating the Taliban, but rather “reversing the momentum,” which he says the military has been achieving.