News

US Officials Say Conditions Will Determine Pace of Afghanistan Withdrawal

In a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill, key Obama administration officials said Thursday that the July 2011 date President Barack Obama set for beginning a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will depend on the progress made.

Multimedia

Audio

In a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill, key Obama administration officials said Thursday that the July 2011 date President Barack Obama set for beginning a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will depend on the progress made.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and military Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen testified before two congressional panels.

In his Tuesday night speech, President Obama stressed the need to give Afghanistan's government, army and police time to build up their ability to defend against Taliban advances.

The top officials who will implement that strategy say they believe the president is sincere in his intention to stick to the July 2011 date.

But they also say that conditions - including security in key provinces, the pace of training and equipping Afghan forces, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's ability to eliminate corruption and restore credibility - will determine how rapidly a U.S. withdrawal occurs.

Reminding lawmakers that he has always opposed strict deadlines for completing U.S. troop withdrawals, Secretary Gates offered this interpretation of the president's thinking.

"The date of July 2011 to begin thinning our forces and transitioning the security responsibilities to the Afghans is a firm date that the president has established," Gates said. "But the pace of that draw down, the location of the drawdown and so on will be conditions-based, and to use his words, a 'responsible draw down' as we have done in Iraq."

Gates again described the process as sending two major messages - one, an ongoing U.S. commitment symbolized up by the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. troops; the other, a signal of urgency with a date by which Afghans must begin shouldering more security responsibilities.

Admiral Mullen dismissed suggestions by critics that July 2011 was chosen arbitrarily.  He said, it is a target that U.S. commanders and war planners reached, based on assessments of conditions on the ground.

"It is not an arbitrary date.  It is the third summer, if you will, that the [U.S.] Marines will be in [Afghanistan's southern] Helmand [province]," Mullen said. "And we will have a clear indication from three seasons, if you will, of the heart of the fighting season there, which way this is going."

Admiral Mullen and Secretaries Gates and Clinton faced tough questions from lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

Saying he does not see a comprehensive policy for Afghanistan or a clear Pakistan strategy, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez had this exchange with Secretary Clinton:

"Can any of you tell this committee that, in fact, after July 2011, we won't have tens of thousands of troops [in Afghanistan] for years after that date?" asked Senator Menendez.
 
"Well Senator, I can tell you what the intention is, and the intention is . . ." Secretart if State Hillary Clinton responded.

"Madame Secretary, I don't want to hear what the intention is," Menendez interrupted.  "I want to know can you tell the committee that there won't be tens of thousands troops after July 2011 for years after that?"

Clinton then described what she called a "convergence" between U.S. objectives and statements by President Karzai that Afghans will be able to shoulder security responsibilities in key areas within three years, and within five years for the entire country.

All three officials said that the actual number of U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan in the coming months would likely be higher than 30,000, when support forces are taken into account.

Admiral Mullen said the military and the administration will conduct a major review in about one year to assess what changes might be needed.

Republicans lawmakers such as Senator Johnny Isakson questioned President Obama's decision to set a date for beginning the withdrawal process, saying it provides an advantage to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

"This July 2011 date, if they interpret it as an end game for us, it gives them some opportunity," Isakson said.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrat John Kerry said that Pakistan must be the real focus of U.S. concerns, while Republican Senator Richard Lugar questioned what the Obama administration is doing to ensure Pakistan's cooperation as part of President Obama's overall strategy.

"We have largely expelled al-Qaida from Afghanistan.  Today, it is the presence of al-Qaida in Pakistan - its direct ties to and support from the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the perils of an unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan that drive our mission," Senator John Kerry said.

"On one side, we are going to [put] in place additional troops dealing with these 11 provinces in Afghanistan.  But what is not clear is precisely what is going to happen in Pakistan in this alliance of the two of us - the U.S. and Pakistan in this case," noted Senator Richard Lugar.

During the House Armed Services Committee hearing, Democrat John Spratt questioned the true cost of the troop buildup, now estimated to be
between $30 billion and $35 billion.

The Obama administration is expected to send a supplemental request to Congress for additional funds to support operations in Afghanistan.  This would include military needs and money to pay for the civilian component of the president's plan.

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs