Obama announces withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Posted: June 23, 2011 in Afghanistan, Middle-East, US

In an Oval Office address last night President Obama signaled that America’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan is on the wane announcing the withdrawal of 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, just weeks before Mr. Obama seeks re-election. He said it was “the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war”. At least 68,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan. However Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff has said Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is “riskier than he had initially wanted”.

After a decade since the beginning of America’s occupation in Afghanistan, Obama’s next move will be seen as an acknowledgement of growing domestic impatience with the war. Mr. Obama accepts that these years have been tough continuing his address to say; “We have learnt anew the profound cost of war – a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and more than 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people.”

Soon afterwards French President Nicolas Sarkozy also announced a progressive withdrawal of France’s troops from Afghanistan. The withdrawal of France’s approximately 4,000 troops will take place on a timetable matching the US troop pullout. Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has said the speed of UK troop withdrawals would be based on conditions on the ground. Downing Street said Mr Cameron had “fully agreed” with the President’s assessment of the Afghan situation. However, the chairman of the Commons defence select committee, Tory MP James Arbuthnot, said President Obama was taking a “gamble” in going against military advice.

More withdrawal announcements can be expected. In May next year, the Nato allies who have troops in Afghanistan will attend a summit in Chicago to consider their withdrawal options. The pressures to reduce US commitments overseas are likely to only grow stronger as next year’s presidential election nears and Congress grapples with the budget deficit. While the budget battle between the White House and Republicans is fiercely partisan, there has been less disagreement on his foreign policy – with the exception of Libya, which is becoming a fast-growing source of resentment on Capitol Hill among members of both parties.






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