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June 22nd, 2011
08:52 PM ET

Obama announces Afghanistan troop withdrawal plan

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home within the next 15 months.

In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the so-called "surge" forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.

Calling the surge "one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as president," Obama said the military campaign was "meeting our goals" in Afghanistan and the drawdown would begin "from a position of strength."

"Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11," Obama said. "Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda's leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11."

At the same time, Obama said the Afghanistan drawdown and the simultaneous winding down of the war in Iraq would allow the United States to begin refocusing attention and resources on efforts to resolve economic and other problems and trying to unify a politically divided nation.

"America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home," the president said.

The troop withdrawals from Afghanistan will begin next month, as promised when Obama ordered the surge in a speech 18 months ago at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

After the departure of all the surge forces, the total U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan would be just under 70,000 troops.

Obama's time frame would give U.S. commanders another two "fighting" seasons with the bulk of U.S. forces still available for combat operations.

It also would bring the surge troops home before the November 2012 election in which Obama will seek a second term.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Lee Buik Denizot

    Ideally Bush would have stayed on task; followed thru in the hunt for Bin Laden and not gotten involved in Iraq. That said,
    as much as I want to see the US bring all of our wonderful brave men and women home I do not see it as feasible at this time. My reason is that I fear for the women (and young girls) that we encouraged to follow their dreams for a better life. I fear for the young girls that (with our encouragement and promises) braved retaliation from the taliban by attending school. The young girls that had acid flung in their faces, left with scars but bravely continuing their education. what will become of them if we just wash our hands of them? How will they feel about us (if they live) and what will they teach their children about us, if we abandom them now?

    June 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Taylor

    As usual President Obama gave a thoughtful and pragmatic review of the war. I agree with his troop withdrawal levels. He has the knowledge and intelligence to make the best decision. That's why we elected him. Believe me he wants the troops home asap.

    June 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  3. Demos

    Well done Mr. President.
    Our economy is at stake, the infrastructure is falling, the corruption persists in Afghanistan, unemployment is real, poverty has increased and our national debt is unrealistic. Where are we going? The people know that we need to protect ourselves from terrorism and that war is a great business. Regardless of political ideology, the people will spell it out at the voting booth in 2012.
    Thank you.

    June 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  4. Haridas

    What President Obama discussed about bringing the troops is a wonderful idea. We have spent lot of dollars there. Our country is not doing well economically and education wise. We have to spent that money at home so that our people and students can be benefited from the money that is spent at home. Keep up the good work Mr. President.

    June 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm |