Obama to announce withdrawal of 34k troops from Afghanistan
Washington: US President Barack Obama in his State of the Union Address will announce the withdrawal of 34,000 US troops from Afghanistan in the next one year, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
The announcement would decrease by half the number of US forces serving in Afghanistan and leave about 26,000 troops by February 2014. Currently, there are 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
"Before making his announcement, President Obama spoke on the phone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to inform them of his decision," the senior Administration official said.
"Further reductions will continue through the end of 2014 as Afghans take full responsibility for their security," a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak.
"Thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, our Afghan partners and ISAF partners from 49 countries, we have struck devastating blows against al Qaeda, and Afghan forces continue to grow stronger, with 352,000 now in training or on duty," the official said.
"Afghan forces are leading nearly 90 percent of operations across the country, and by this spring, they`ll be assuming the lead, with the United States and ISAF stepped back to a train, advise and assist role.
"In that capacity, we will no longer be leading combat operations, but will provide support to the Afghans as they lead operations through the crucial fighting seasons of 2013 and 2014. By the end of 2014, we will responsibly bring our war in Afghanistan to a close," the official said.
At the NATO Summits in Lisbon and Chicago, the US and its partners laid out a transition plan that would lead to the Afghan Government having full responsibility for security by the end of 2014, the official said.
"We are implementing that plan in a way that strengthens Afghan capacity and respects Afghan sovereignty, while preserving the important gains that have been made in recent years," he said.
The President has made his decision based on the recommendations of the military and his National Security team, as well as consultations with President Karzai and our international coalition partners.
The official said Obama will not be making any further announcements about troop numbers tonight, nor has he made any decisions beyond the one he is announcing.
"The United States remains fully committed to a long-term strategic partnership with the Afghan Government and the Afghan people.
"We remain in negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghan Government that would contemplate two narrow missions for the United States beyond 2014 -- targeting the remnants of al Qaeda and training Afghan Security Forces," the official said.
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