President Obama charted a middle course Wednesday for ending the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, outlining a departure plan that will remove troops faster than his commanders had requested but more slowly than many of his political allies would like.
In a prime-time address from the White House, Obama said he will bring home 10,000 U.S. troops by the end of the year and 23,000 more by summer 2012, a withdrawal window that will conclude two months before voters decide whether to give him a second term. The first troops will leave Afghanistan next month.
“Tonight,” the president said from the East Room, “we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.”
In contrast to his 2009 decision to send additional forces to Afghanistan, Obama appeared to give greater weight this time to the growing impatience of a war-weary public and a skeptical Congress, whose members have been demanding a rapid drawdown and a narrower mission after nearly a decade of battle.
Obama was a relatively new commander in chief when he authorized the troop “surge” 18 months ago. Today he is a candidate for reelection at the head of a party deeply opposed to the war, and he emphasized his push to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq to “reclaim the American dream that is at the center of our story.”
“Over the last decade, we have spent $1 trillion on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times,” he said in a 13-minute address that sounded at times like a campaign speech. “America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”
Obama’s decision drew a measured response from Capitol Hill, where some Democrats indicated that they will continue to pressure the president for a faster withdrawal.
Read more at The Washington Post.