Obama Sets June 22 Announcement on Afghanistan Drawdown Plan

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Obama Sets June 22 Announcement on Afghanistan Drawdown Plan

Post by John Chisum on Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:49 am

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Obama Sets June 22 Announcement on Afghanistan Drawdown Plan

June 20, 2011, 8:18 PM EDT

By Margaret Talev

(Updates with additional background information and mayor’s vote today.)

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama will announce on June 22 details of his plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, administration officials said.

Obama had set next month as the deadline to begin withdrawing some of about 97,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, beginning the transition to greater control by Afghan security forces. A full handoff to the Afghans is planned by 2014.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn’t been announced, said the president will give a speech on his strategy. The next day he is scheduled to visit Fort Drum in New York, the base for the 10th Mountain Division, which has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The officials declined to preview the details of the president’s announcement, including whether he will call for withdrawing all 30,000 troops that constitute last year’s military surge by the end of 2012, or a smaller portion, as military officials prefer.

They declined to say if the president will set targets for withdrawing the pre-surge troops through 2014.

“It’s now time for us to recognize we’ve accomplished a big chunk of our mission and that it’s time for the Afghans to take more responsibility,” the president said in a June 6 interview with WLKY-TV, Louisville, Kentucky.

Recommendations

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is stepping down on June 30, and General David Petraeus, who is set to leave as the top commander in Afghanistan later this year to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, have favored a drawdown that is determined by security conditions in Afghanistan.

Petraeus gave the president options for the drawdown last week. Neither the White House nor the Defense Department has publicly disclosed the choices Petraeus presented to the president.

Pressure has been mounting from Democrats and Republicans in Congress and from some Republican presidential candidates for Obama to speed up the pace of the troop withdrawals since U.S. forces killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden last month.

A group of 27 senators, all but two of them Democrats, signed a letter to Obama last week calling for a “sizable and sustained” reduction of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Citing bin Laden’s death, the senators say the main U.S. objectives in Afghanistan have been met.

War Costs

War costs, which have contributed to a trillion-dollar federal budget deficit that both the Congress and Obama have promised to cut, also have figured into the debate.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted today to urge the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and to bring “war dollars home” to create jobs.

“The people of the United States are collectively paying approximately $126 billion per year to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the resolution says. “The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home.”

The money should be redirected to cities, which are still coping with the aftermath of the recession that ended two years ago and facing cutbacks because of moves to rein in the federal deficit, the mayors said.

The government’s fiscal 2011 budget plan includes $113.5 billion for Afghanistan operations, up from $56.1 billion in 2009. The U.S. will spend $45.8 billion for Iraq. Still, total Defense Department spending on both wars is down from its peak in 2008 of about $179.7 billion as the U.S. winds down its presence in Iraq.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters this month that cost considerations were “right in the middle” of administration discussions about the pace of the withdrawals.

--With assistance from Roger Runningen and Tony Capaccio in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Laurie Asseo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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John Chisum

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