Obama finalises plan for Afghan troop cuts

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama made his final decision on Tuesday on the scale and pace of a U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan and will announce his plan in a prime-time speech to Americans on Wednesday.

By Matt Spetalnick (Reuters)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 22 Jun 2011, 1:27 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:40 PM

Obama is expected to present a blueprint for bringing home thousands of troops in the initial phase starting in July and also unveil a broader withdrawal strategy for the remainder of the 30,000 extra “surge” troops he ordered deployed in late 2009, a U.S. official said.

The president’s address from the White House, scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT), comes amid growing pressure from Congress and the U.S. public for an end to the costly, 10-year-old war.

Obama has sought to balance arguments from military leaders pressing for a slow drawdown and White House advisers advocating a more rapid pullout as he faces a 2012 re-election campaign.

“He has been working through his decision over the course of the last several weeks and finalized that decision today,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday. But he declined to provide details of Obama’s plan.

Obama’s decision comes at a critical juncture as lawmakers from both parties, looking to slash federal spending, are anxious to curtail what has become a costly and unpopular U.S. military intervention.

Pentagon officials have voiced concern that a rapid withdrawal would endanger gains against the Taliban insurgency while White House advisers have pressed for a drawdown large enough to placate his own Democratic Party’s anti-war wing as well as a growing number of Republicans.

The killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid last month has helped buttress the argument within the administration that there has been enough progress against al Qaeda to justify scaling back the war effort faster than expected.

Among the options Obama has been considering is to set a timetable of 12 to 18 months to pull out all of the 30,000 extra troops he sent to Afghanistan, following a review of U.S. war strategy in late 2009, to break the momentum of the Taliban, officials say.

Obama has only said the initial withdrawal will be “significant.”

Some U.S. officials have privately estimated that could mean 3,000 to 5,000 troops initially and an equal number by the end of the year, but some key lawmakers have pushed for at least 15,000 troops to come home by the end of 2011.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged a more modest drawdown out of the 100,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan to avoid undercutting progress on the ground.

More news from