In a primetime speech Wednesday on the Afghanistan war’s path forward, President Obama announced that beginning in July, the U. S. would begin the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and an additional 23,000 by the end of next summer. He also said that he was keeping the commitment he made to begin such a withdrawal he initially ordered a surge of 34,000 troops when he became president.
“After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead,” Obama said. “Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”
Obama also pointed to the successes, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the growth of the Afghan Security Forces.
“In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war,” the president said.
But, he warned, “huge challenges remain,” and the U.S, must work to ensure that the gains made are not lost during the transition. He also said that the U.S. will host a NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012 to work on the transition.
One of the biggest and most frustrating challenges is the ability of terrorists to hide out in neighboring Pakistan, where Osama was found, which the U.S. and its allies consider both frustrating and indefensible.
“No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region,” he said. “We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.”
Based on leaks about the size of the troop withdrawal, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) expressed opposition to Obama’s proposal before Obama delivered his remarks. The withdrawal is not acceptable or sizeable enough to make a real difference, she told BET.com.
“The 30,000 troops he’s proposing just take us back to were we were before the surge. It makes no sense. Americans are war weary and they want us out swiftly,” she said.
The Black lawmaker also said that she plans to offer an amendment to cut funds for the Afghanistan war and provide only $15 billion to pay for the orderly and safe return of all of the troops.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, warned against giving calendar dates greater priority than degrading Al Qaeda’s influence in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
(Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)