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Obama to announce Afghan withdrawal plan today

Source: PTI
June 22, 2011 09:24 IST
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United States President Barack Obama will announce in a nationally televised speech on Wednesday, plans to draw down the 30,000 additional American troops that were pumped into Afghanistan as part of a surge last year.

Obama will address the nation from the White House to lay out his plan for implementing his strategy -- first unveiled in December 2009 -- to draw down American troops from Afghanistan, his spokesman said in a statement without giving any further details. There was no official word on the number of troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who had joint media availability on Tuesday morning, did not entertain such questions, except for saying that the issue is still being discussed.

"I will not have any comment before the president delivers the speech that he intends to make," Clinton told newsmen.

"The president has to take into account on any national security issue sustainability here at home, both among the public and in the Congress. And it goes without saying that there are a lot of reservations in the Congress about the war in Afghanistan, and our level of commitment.

"There are concerns among the American people who are tired of a decade of war," Gates said. He said the president will have to take into consideration this war weariness, apart from the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan while making his decision.

A day earlier, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, said Obama looks at it in terms of the mission, the strategy he laid out in December of 2009 and the objectives that he laid out then. "This would be probably that time to review what the mission in Afghanistan was, as the president set out in his announcement on December 1, 2009, which is, disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat the Al Qaeda, to break the momentum of the Taliban and to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan to allow the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces to begin the process of taking over the security lead in their country," he added.

He said the US has made "significant" progress towards achieving those goals, the most notable being the elimination of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Besides, he said, there has been enormous progress in disrupting and dismantling the Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Carney said there has been significant progress in disrupting, or halting, the momentum of Taliban, and significant progress in stabilising Afghanistan and the government to allow Afghan national security forces to build up, to train and prepare for taking over the lead.

"So he looks at this decision as a part of a process, of a policy he put in motion in December of 2009. He said at the time that he would begin the draw down of the surge forces in July of 2011. That will happen; the pace and slope of that will depend on his assessment of how far we have come in achieving the goals that he set out," Carney said.

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