News / Asia

Obama Still Mulling Afghanistan Troop Drawdown

President Barack Obama on Wednesday had another in a series of regular meetings with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will be among key advisers making recommendations about the size and scope of a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled to begin in July.  

Questions about when Mr. Obama will actually receive formal recommendations from Defense Secretary Gates and military commanders have been a daily feature of White House news briefings for weeks.

The White House response has been consistent. Spokesman Jay Carney tells reporters the president continues to hold regular meetings with Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other members of his national security team.

Gates has made clear he believes the beginning of a U.S. troop drawdown should be modest in terms of numbers, and ensure that the U.S. maintains a strong combat troop presence.

Media reports in recent weeks, quoting various un-named administration officials, have speculated on the size of the drawdown, mentioning figures ranging from 3,000 or 5,000 troops to much higher.

In testimony to Congress on Wednesday, Gates insisted that Afghanistan is "not a war without end" and underscored the danger of allowing failure of the mission. "I know people are frustrated, the country has been at war for 10 years," he said. "I know people are tired, but people also have to think in terms of stability and in terms of the potential for reconstitution (of Taliban and al-Qaida), what is the cost of failure?"

One recent report in the on line publication The Daily Beast quoted anonymous administration officials as saying the president may unveil a plan involving a slow withdrawal over a period of 12 to 18 months of as many as 30,000 troops.

As that and other reports noted, this would be the number of U.S troops Mr. Obama sent to Afghanistan as part of a surge in late 2009 aimed at pushing back Taliban advances.

Spokesman Carney declined to say whether the withdrawal itself was on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting with Secretary Gates, adding that Afghanistan routinely comes up in such meetings.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, is in Washington.  The primary purpose is to prepare for the U.S. Senate hearing next week to confirm his nomination as the new CIA director.

Carney was evasive on the question of meetings between General Petraeus and the president. "I don't have any announcements about meetings, but I think it is fair to, I'll simply refer you to what I have said in the past, which is that the president will have discussions with General Petraeus, who is the commanding general in Afghanistan, and others to hear their ideas and their recommendations about the beginning of a drawdown, which I hasten to remind people is the implementation of a policy that he articulated in December 2009, including specifically the fact that we will begin the drawdown in July of 2011," he said.

President Obama continues to face pressures from Capitol Hill, where the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat John Kerry, called Afghan war costs of $10 billion a day "unsustainable" and urged a speeding up of troop withdrawals.

Anti-war sentiment could be heard in remarks by Massachusetts Democrat Congressman Jim McGovern who told reporters after a meeting earlier this month with the president that Americans "have had it" with the war in Afghanistan. "I think people have had enough, I think the American people are ahead of Congress and ahead of the administration on the issue of the war in Afghanistan, I think we need to bring our troops home where they belong," he said.

On Wednesday, a group of 27 U.S. senators, Democrats and one Independent, sent a letter to President Obama urging what they called a "sizable and sustained" drawdown and a shift of course in U.S. strategy.

The lawmakers said the primary objectives for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan - removal of the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaida, the killing of Osama bin Laden and disruption of terrorist networks allied with al-Qaida - have largely been met.

In remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, another influential senator, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, argued that the 30,000 U.S. troop surge is "beginning to pay off" and supported a modest reduction. "A modest reduction this summer is called for, achievable and would not undercut the overall effort.  The goal to transition to Afghan security force control by 2014 is very much possible if we continue the training, equipping and the general effort to build capacity," he said.

Senator Graham cautioned against "losing the momentum" in Afghanistan, and warned against Congress accelerating a withdrawal schedule "because it is popular at home" saying this undercuts gains in Afghanistan.

Recent media reports have also speculated about a struggle in the internal administration discussion involving, the reports say, differences between advisers to Mr. Obama, not only about the size of a drawdown but overall strategy going forward.

In responding to numerous questions, the White House continues to stress that while the president will have options before him that will be reviewed and discussed, the process leading to a final decision does not involve any major re-opening of the overall Afghanistan strategy laid out in December of 2009.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs