Obama Orders 33,000 Troops Out of Afghanistan

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 5:30 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama goes to New York Thursday to promote his plan to withdraw 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.

Mr. Obama is due to meet with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. It is one of the most frequently deployed

divisions to Afghanistan.

In a White House address Wednesday, President Obama declared that “the tide of war is receding” and said the first 10,000 American troops will pull out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining troops from the surge announced in December of 2009 will come home next year, with U.S. forces continuing their withdrawal at a “steady pace” as Afghan forces take the lead.

Some 100,000 American troops are serving in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that he welcomes the withdrawal of U.S. troops, adding that “the people of Afghanistan will be protecting their homeland.” He said he considers the decision to be in “the interest of both countries.” However, the Taliban in Afghanistan said the plan was “only a symbolic step” that will not satisfy “the war-weary international community or the American people.”

The Afghan war has become increasingly unpopular with the American public. With a trillion dollars spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last decade, President Obama acknowledged it was time to focus on “nation-building at home.”

The president said that by 2014, the process of transition in Afghanistan will be complete, with Afghans taking responsibility for their own security.

Mr. Obama's announcement Wednesday on troop levels is seen as more aggressive than a slower drawdown called for by some military commanders. Still, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he supported the president's decision.

In his 13-minute speech, President Obama noted that al-Qaida is under more pressure than at any time since the September 11 terrorist attacks and is on a “path to defeat.” U.S. special forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.

In Afghanistan, the president said U.S. forces have inflicted losses on the Taliban and taken a number of the insurgent group's strongholds.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that the war in Afghanistan can not end without some kind of political settlement. He expressed support for Afghan-led reconciliation talks with members of the Taliban who are willing to break from al-Qaida, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution.

The president also said U.S. efforts must address terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan.

Mr. Obama added the United States will work with the Pakistani government to root out the “cancer of violent extremism” and insist that Pakistan keep its commitments.

The president also said the United States must chart “a more centered course, ” responding to threats with a “targeted force” and not necessarily deploying large armies overseas.

At least 1,500 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001. The United States spends more than $110 billion a year on the conflict.