News / USA

Obama Administration Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal Timeline

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington (File)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington (File)
TEXT SIZE - +
Michael Bowman
The Obama administration is defending a NATO plan to gradually end combat operations in Afghanistan. The future of America’s longest-ever war has become an issue in the 2012 presidential race.

Last week, the United States and NATO allies affirmed a plan that would leave international forces in a non-combat, supportive role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.  U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says there will be no abandonment of a nation that remains at war with radical militants and terrorist elements.

“We are not going anyplace," he said. "We have an enduring presence that will be in Afghanistan and will continue to work with them on counter-terrorism. We will continue to provide training, assistance, guidance.”

Panetta spoke on U.S. television, ABC’s This Week program.

President Barack Obama’s likely Republican opponent in this year’s election, former Governor Mitt Romney, says the administration’s plans will play into the hands of Taliban fighters and could squander hard-fought gains achieved during a decade of war.

“How can you be so misguided and so naïve? His secretary of defense said that on a date-certain we are going to pull out our combat troops from Afghanistan," said Romney. "Why in the world do you go to the people you are fighting and tell them the day you are pulling out your troops?”

Critics of a withdrawal timeline say Afghan militants will bide their time until international troops are gone.

Secretary Panetta says the plan has broad support from America’s allies and is sound.

“That is the plan that has been agreed to, and it is a plan that is working," he said. "And, very frankly, the only way to get this accomplished, in terms of the transition we have to go through, is to be able to set the kind of timelines that have been set here, in order to ensure that we fulfill the mission of an Afghanistan that governs and secures itself.  That is what this is about.”

On another matter, the defense secretary criticized Pakistan’s imprisonment of a doctor who helped the United States confirm the location of now-deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

“It is so difficult to understand, and it is so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years [in jail] for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist in our times," said Panetta. "This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al-Qaida.”

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Republican Senator John McCain said Pakistan’s actions in this and other matters are easily understood.

“It is because the Pakistanis believe that we are leaving," said McCain. "We are always taking about withdrawal, withdrawal, withdrawal. The entire region believes that the United States of America is withdrawing. They have to live in the neighborhood.  And they are making the accommodations, and that is not good for America.”

Defense Secretary Panetta described the relationship with Pakistan as “up and down” and one of America’s “most complicated.”  But he added that bilateral ties are important for both nations.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid