Obama orders withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
Washington, June 23
US commanders admitted on Thursday that Obama's plan for pullout was "bigger, more aggressive and riskier" but went on to say that the risks were manageable. Analysts criticised Obama for not making any long-term commitment to Afghanistan, without which, they felt, peace would be short-lived. And Taliban spokesmen were quoted in US websites as claiming victory over the "super power". The pullout, one of them said from an undisclosed destination, was the beginning of the end for the US in Afghanistan and signalled the return of the Taliban.
NATO and US commanders in Afghanistan had argued for a more intense engagement across Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, where the 'last and the longest' battles would have to be fought, they reckoned.
He said that America's efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. "For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve," he added.
The withdrawal will see a first group of 10,000 American soldiers brought home from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, two months before voters decide whether to give Obama a second term.
In a prime-time address to the nation from the White House, Obama said America was starting the drawdown from a position of strength, asserting that Al-Qaida was under “more pressure” than at any time since 9/11.
“Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of Al-Qaida’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that Al-Qaida had ever known,” he said in his 13-minute address that sounded like a campaign speech.
“This is the beginning-but not the end-of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government,” he said.
“By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.” He said after the initial reduction, American troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.
“Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security,” Obama said.
He had sent 30,000 surge troops to Afghanistan in December 2009 plus 3,000 support soldiers in a bid to reverse the Taliban’s momentum in the country. Nevertheless, about 68,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan.
Obama said Al-Qaida’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive.
“We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments,” he said. — PTI
NATO troops in Afghanistan: 140,000
Cost of the war on terror for NATO: $ 2 bn per week
Coalition casualty in 2010: 711
Coalition casualty in 2011 till mid-June: 260
Strength of Afghan Police: 80,000
Strengh of Afghan Army: 171,000 by October, 2011
68,000 US troops will still remain in Afghanistan even after the pullout.
america plans a complete withdrawal by 2014
This is the beginning — but not the end — of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. — Barack Obama, US President