News / Asia

Obama Still Mulling Afghanistan Troop Drawdown

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid