Troop drawdown: Obama says U.S. finishing Afghan job

President announces plans to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan and end military commitment by end of 2016
Associated Press
May 27, 2014

Seeking to turn the page on more than a decade of war, President Barack Obama announced plans Tuesday for greatly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of the year and then ending the U.S. military commitment by the end of 2016.

"We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected," Obama acknowledged during an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. "Now we're finishing the job we've started."

He said American forces, first sent within a month of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have struck significant blows against al-Qaida's leadership, eliminated Osama bin Laden and prevented Afghanistan from being used as a base against the U.S.

Even as Obama set a timetable for the drawdown, he said he would keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission formally ends later this year. Those troops would focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts.

The president said his plan was contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the accord, but the U.S. is optimistic that the two candidates seeking to replace him in the ongoing Afghan elections will finalize the agreement. Both have pledged to sign it.

Obama's blueprint calls for cutting the current U.S. force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops, dispatched throughout Afghanistan, would not be engaged in combat missions.

Over the course of 2015, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul.

Noting the complexity of his drawdown plan, Obama said, "It's harder to end wars than to begin them."

Obama's decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and will allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office in January 2017.

The American forces would probably be bolstered by a few thousand NATO troops. The total NATO presence, including U.S. troops, is expected to be around 12,000 at the start of next year.

Obama announced the drawdown plan a day after returning from a surprise weekend trip to Afghanistan where he met with U.S. commanders and American forces serving in the closing months of America's longest war.

Top Republicans criticized the plan before Obama had even announced it, taking issue with his decision to publicly declare that troops would be out of Afghanistan after 2016.

"President Obama is not ending wars, he's losing them," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, wrote on Twitter.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., praised Obama's troop levels but questioned his timing and said that in Iraq he had "abandoned the region to chaos."

"Holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn't make a lick of sense strategically," McKeon said.

Ahead of his remarks, Obama spoke with Karzai, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the White House. The two leaders did not see each other while Obama was in Afghanistan this weekend, but they did speak by phone as Air Force One was returning to Washington.

Obama has also discussed his plans with several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

U.S. military commanders have been arguing for months to keep roughly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, if only for a limited time, while they bolster the Afghan forces' ability to do long-term logistical planning and increase their air force capabilities. In recent weeks, the military had expressed confidence that they had been able to sell their plans to the White House.

Germany and Italy have said they will continue as lead nations in the north and west of Afghanistan, and there has been some discussion that the U.S. would also have some troops in those areas to work with the allies.

After Karzai refused to sign the bilateral security agreement, Obama asked the Pentagon to plan for the possibility that all American forces would withdraw by a year-end 2014 deadline. But given the supportive comments of the candidates in Afghanistan's presidential election, Obama signaled during his holiday weekend trip to Bagram that he was likely to keep some American troops in the country.

"After all the sacrifices we've made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win, and we're going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country," Obama declared.

At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.

Comments

Maggdi

Looks to me like the plan changed.... again...

Mais pourquoi?

There you go again

Is it really a good idea to plan a major announcement of withdrawal and let the enemies know exactly who/how many troops are left in Afghanistan?!?!

Gardenman

In reality do you really think any enemy to the US in Afghanistan would not know when and how many American troops were leaving? I am sure at any given time they have a very good idea of American presence in the country.

I think this is a good thing for it lets the current government in place know its time for you to step up and do your job. This is not a forever committment by the United States. We are not the permanent policeman in the world.

freespeech1

But you don't broadcast it to them! President spineless needs to go back to community organizing cause he sure as hell cant lead a nation.

deertracker

More stupid comments!

freespeech1

Coming from the king of idiots, show me where Im wrong! I do have a military background unlike you. You never let the enemy know troop levels or dates when your gonna scale down. Common sense is lost with you.

OSUAV8TER

I'm in Afghanistan right now, and we aren't doing much fighting of the enemy. POTUS is right, it's time to come home, I think ANA/ANP can handle it now.

freespeech1

Thank you for your service! I do agree its time to come home! But outlining the withdrawal for the entire world to see is not good policy.

OSUAV8TER

For every service member here there are probably 2, 3, or 4 contractor, federal government civilian, or coalition troops. We're not going home at the end of 2014.

deertracker

@ freespeech
Okay General or should I say Gomer!

freespeech1

More hostile comments lol. At least I had the honor to serve unlike you who said a while back "you would never serve this nation". Say what you will and attack my service I really don't care. But day in and day out you defend this liar of a president and his failures. People like you are whats wrong in this country. Blinders on, and head buried in the sand. Maybe someday you might get it, but probably not. This community organizer you love so much has done more damage to this nation than any other president in history. He has lied over and over again but yet you still bow to him. Either your really stupid or you just don't give a damn what happens. Either way this once great nation is failing miserably and you have only yourselves to blame.

jazzbo

freespeech -

Did you really serve as an enlisted man ?

Or did you serve food in the mess hall to enlisted men ( as a civilian ) when you worked at a military base ?

Because you don't sound like a military man.

deertracker

It's you're not your. Either way I'm not stupid nor do I bow to anyone. Once great nation? GMAB!!!!!! Just because you washed millions of dishes for your nation does not mean you know all there is to know about war strategies.

freespeech1

First off I never said I knew everything about strategy. And no I didn't wash millions of dishes. Why is it you libs always have to attack people on a personal level when trying to have a civil discussion? I served proudly as a combat engineer and would do it again if needed. Back to your comment, you don't have to be a genius to figure out reducing troop level timelines is not a good thing. You never advertise what you doing. In closing being the spelling police really shows your infantile mentality. But I don't expect less from a lib.

jazzbo

So you disagree with OSUAV8TER ( who happens to be there ) ?

freespeech1

My son has been there 3 times, so I do know a bit about whats going on.

jazzbo

Is he an officer or an armchair general like yourself ?
Because that's how you are coming across - as an armchair general.

From the Grave

So, why are they our "enemies" again?

Contango

Pres. Obama tends to have the "most transparent administration in history" when it comes to military strength, but little else.

"Finishing Afghan job"?

Reads more like Mission Accomplished II.

deertracker

Not even close pooh. Let's see if 4000 soldiers die over there after 2016!

Contango

Re: "Not even close,"

So how is it EXACTLY that the "job" is being finished?

deertracker

The job was done when Osama bit the dust. We should have been out a while back.

Contango

Re: "The job was done,"

The purpose was to stabilize Afghanistan so that the Taliban wouldn't control it again and allow it to be used as a springboard for terrorism.

Good luck!

deertracker

That wasn't the original purpose now was it? America is DONE there!

Contango

Re: "original purpose"

CLUELESS, per usual:

"The United States and its international partners from over 40 nations have been engaged in efforts to secure, stabilize, and rebuild Afghanistan since 2001."

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-...

deertracker

You are obviously drunk. America did not go to Afghanistan to stabilize it. That was not W's intent and you know it.

What happened in 2001? You cons ALWAYS want to rewrite history. Can't be done!

Dr. Information

deer, the internet could be your friend if you were not so stupid to use it.

jazzbo

No, deer is right.

We went to get Bin Laden.

( or did I miss something ?)

Contango

"We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan.

And I've set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014,”

“Gov. Romney doesn't have a timetable. I think he's wrong. That's what's at stake in this election.”

- Pres. Obama, Boulder, Colo., September 2012.

Guess Pres. Obama didn't have a "time table" either. Just more of his usual hot air campaign blather.

http://news.yahoo.com/can-obama-...

OMG.LOL.WT_

Surprise, Surprise, Politicians LIE, Don't like the President, get a new one. They LIE too. WMD, Mission accomplished. I did not have sex. :) :)

Contango

And let's 'sadly' remember:

"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

- Lyndon B. Johnson

OMG.LOL.WT_

"Fifty-four Forty or Fight!" ?

Greengiant

The Taliban has pulled back into Pakistan where they are safe and American foreign aid pays the bills. They will go back to afghanistan once we have pulled out again and they have taken over Iraq.

KURTje

You people forget. McCain & Obama both stated (when running for CIC) that the US would be in Afghanistan for an unknown period of time. Obama did state we would get out of Iraq. McCain had no timeline for Iraq.