On the coming Wednesday, President Obama will announce the details of his plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next month, according to administration officials.
Next month is set as the deadline to begin withdrawing some of 97,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as the start of the transition to increasing control by Afghan security forces toward a full handoff to the Afghans to be achieved by 2014.
Officials, who remain anonymous because the decision is yet to be announced, said the president will give a speech on his strategy. According to the White House, President Obama is scheduled to visit troops at Fort Drum in New York this week, 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, reported the Business Week.
President Obama announced the July start for the troop withdrawal when he ordered the surge in December 2009.
The political pressure on President Obama to speed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has been mounting since the murder of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Key allies in Congress, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, have suggested the withdrawal of 15,000 of the surge troops by the end of 2011. A faster pullout is suggested based on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last month, which situated the U.S. to afford a less troop-intensive campaign.
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, the Business Week reported. Referring to bin Laden's death, the senators say the main U.S. objectives in Afghanistan have been met.
Military leaders have been wary of publicly voicing their drawdown suggestions for fear of antagonizing the White House, which has in the past accused commanders of trying to box in the president on earlier troop decisions, the Wall Street Journal reported. But Robert Gates, in his final month as defense secretary, has made clear his preference for a slow withdrawal, a view shared by many field commanders who privately say a precipitous pullout could endanger recent security gains in southern Afghanistan, according to the Journal.
Approximately $126 billion is annually used for war in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors' resolution. The fiscal budget plan for 2011 includes $113.5 billion for Afghanistan operations, doubling from $56.1 billion in 2009. Additionally, $45.8 billion will be spent for Iraq.
In his Wednesday speech, Obama will remind Americans of the reasons behind the escalation and the rationale for keeping tens of thousands of troops in the country at a time of fiscal strain at home, the Washington Post stated. Administration officials predict the number of troops to be removed in July to be between 3- and 5,000.
White House officials are still working through the specifics of Wednesday's speech, such as the venue and the time of day.