Washington: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced to withdraw 34,000 American troops from war-torn Afghanistan in the next one year and showed confidence of ending a decade long war by the end of 2014.
"This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan," Obama said in his annual State of the Union Address to the Congress.
"This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over," he said.
Beyond 2014, America`s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of its commitment will change, Obama said.
"We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al-Qaeda and their affiliates," he said.
Saluting the troops and civilians, Obama said, "because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda."
Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women, he said.
Welcoming the decision, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said this outs the US on right path to succeed in Afghanistan.
This plan to continue drawing down US forces in a phased approach over the coming year was recommended by General John Allen - the former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan-- based on a thorough assessment of the ISAF campaign plan moving forward, he added.
"I believe the President`s decision puts us on the right path to succeed in Afghanistan," he said.
Exuding confidence that going forward Allen`s successor, General Dunford will have the combat power he needs to protect the forces, to continue building up the capabilities of Afghan National Security Forces and to achieve the goal of this campaign ? to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven to attack US, Panetta added.
The US, NATO and the Afghan government agreed in Lisbon in 2010, and affirmed in Chicago last year, that Afghanistan will assume full responsibility for its security by the end of 2014, he said.
We are on track for that goal, and we will maintain a long-term commitment to Afghanistan - including through the continued training and equipping of Afghan forces and counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda and their affiliates, Panetta said.
He said after more than a decade of great sacrifice and hard-fought progress, the US is now on a path to an Afghanistan that cannot be used as a launching pad for attacks against our nation.
"Our troops on the ground will continue to be in a tough fight, and they will continue to face real challenges, but our fundamental goal is now within sight," he said.
Peace Action West, a not-for-profit organisation termed the announcement as a major milestone.
"This is another step towards a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, but we`re not there yet. The American public overwhelmingly supports complete withdrawal. So given the billions we`ve wasted on a 12-year war that has failed to make us or Afghans safer, it is very difficult to justify leaving a single soldier behind, much less more than 30,000," it said.