June 22 - Obama announces plan to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Deborah Gembara reports.
President Obama ended months of speculation about U.S. plans in Afghanistan with this announcement from the White House on Wednesday. SOUNDBITE: U.S. President Barack Obama saying (English): "Starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead." The President says he expects to see the U.S. combat mission transition to a support mission. SOUNDBITE: U.S. President Barack Obama saying (English): "We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace." He also said the U.S. will begin its drawdown from a position of strength. SOUNDBITE: U.S. President Barack Obama saying (English): Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda's leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. In the speech broadcast nationally, the President told Americans they should take comfort in the fact that the tide of war is receding. SOUNDBITE: U.S. President Barack Obama saying (English): Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end. If the President's plan is carried out as expected, the U.S. will still have 70,000 troops in Afghanistan next fall -- more than were there when Obama took office. Deborah Gembara, Reuters.