News / USA

Panetta: US Surge Troops Complete Afghan Withdrawal

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, smiles next to his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012.U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, smiles next to his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012.
x
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, smiles next to his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, smiles next to his New Zealand counterpart Jonathan Coleman at the Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012.
Luis Ramirez
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says all 33,000 troops who went to Afghanistan as part of a surge of forces three years ago have now left the country.  

The  U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the withdrawal a very important milestone in the allied forces' effort to transfer security responsibility to Afghan security forces.  

Panetta made the announcement Friday at a joint news conference with New Zealand's defense minister in Auckland - the last stop of a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific region.

"The United States military has completed drawing down the surge forces President Obama committed in December of 2009, reducing our presence by 33,000 troops, and it was done on schedule," he said.

President Obama ordered the surge in 2009 with the goal to break the momentum of Taliban insurgents by enabling Afghan forces to take and hold on to territory.  With much of Afghanistan now under the control of Afghan forces, Defense Secretary Panetta says plans are on track to pull all remaining allied combat troops out of the country by 2014.

"As we reflect on this moment, it's an opportunity to recognize that the surge did accomplish its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces," he said.

​The drawdown has been carried out gradually over the last few months.  The removal of 33,000 troops leaves 68,000 U.S. troops - down from a high of more than 100,000 a year ago.

The pullout coincides with a spike in the number of insider attacks by Afghan forces, who have turned their weapons their international counterparts.  The incidents have raised concerns among some in Washington - including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey - who has called the number of attacks a very serious threat.

Panetta on Friday said General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has assured him the remaining number of American troops is sufficient to accomplish the mission.    

New Zealand was the last stop on a Pacific tour that included visits to Japan and China.  Panetta on Friday thanked New Zealand's armed forces for their contributions to the Afghan war effort.

The U.S. defense secretary went to Auckland's War Memorial Museum and laid a wreath to honor New Zealand soldiers who have been killed in various wars, including Afghanistan.  New Zealand has lost 10 soldiers in the Afghan war - five of them last month.

As part of the visit, Panetta announced the United States has relaxed a restriction that banned New Zealand navy ships from entering U.S. military ports.  The U.S. imposed the restriction in 1985 when New Zealand banned nuclear powered ships and vessels carrying nuclear weapons from its waters - a move that was followed by Washington's suspension of its defense treaty with the country.

Panetta is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit New Zealand in 30 years.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs