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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid