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Obama says US finishing the job in Afghanistan

Obama: 'We Are Finishing The Job We Started' In Afghanistan


By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking to turn the page on more than a decade of war, President Barack Obama announced plans Tuesday for greatly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of the year and then ending the U.S. military commitment by the end of 2016.

"We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected," Obama acknowledged during an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. "Now we're finishing the job we've started."

He said American forces, first sent within a month of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have struck significant blows against al-Qaida's leadership, eliminated Osama bin Laden and prevented Afghanistan from being used as a base against the U.S.

Even as Obama set a timetable for the drawdown, he said he would keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission formally ends later this year. Those troops would focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts.

The president said his plan was contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the accord, but the U.S. is optimistic that the two candidates seeking to replace him in the ongoing Afghan elections will finalize the agreement. Both have pledged to sign it.

Obama's blueprint calls for cutting the current U.S. force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops, dispatched throughout Afghanistan, would not be engaged in combat missions.

Over the course of 2015, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul.

Noting the complexity of his drawdown plan, Obama said, "It's harder to end wars than to begin them."

Obama's decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and will allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office in January 2017.

The American forces would probably be bolstered by a few thousand NATO troops. The total NATO presence, including U.S. troops, is expected to be around 12,000 at the start of next year.

Obama announced the drawdown plan a day after returning from a surprise weekend trip to Afghanistan where he met with U.S. commanders and American forces serving in the closing months of America's longest war.

Top Republicans criticized the plan before Obama had even announced it, taking issue with his decision to publicly declare that troops would be out of Afghanistan after 2016.

"President Obama is not ending wars, he's losing them," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, wrote on Twitter.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., praised Obama's troop levels but questioned his timing and said that in Iraq he had "abandoned the region to chaos."

"Holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn't make a lick of sense strategically," McKeon said.

Ahead of his remarks, Obama spoke with Karzai, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the White House. The two leaders did not see each other while Obama was in Afghanistan this weekend, but they did speak by phone as Air Force One was returning to Washington.

Obama has also discussed his plans with several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

U.S. military commanders have been arguing for months to keep roughly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, if only for a limited time, while they bolster the Afghan forces' ability to do long-term logistical planning and increase their air force capabilities. In recent weeks, the military had expressed confidence that they had been able to sell their plans to the White House.

Germany and Italy have said they will continue as lead nations in the north and west of Afghanistan, and there has been some discussion that the U.S. would also have some troops in those areas to work with the allies.

After Karzai refused to sign the bilateral security agreement, Obama asked the Pentagon to plan for the possibility that all American forces would withdraw by a year-end 2014 deadline. But given the supportive comments of the candidates in Afghanistan's presidential election, Obama signaled during his holiday weekend trip to Bagram that he was likely to keep some American troops in the country.

"After all the sacrifices we've made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win, and we're going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country," Obama declared.

At least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died during the nearly 13-year Afghan war and thousands more have been wounded.

---

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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fenwaypark9 May 27 2014 at 3:43 PM

Obama is nothing but an in-experienced con man.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
11 replies
kate May 27 2014 at 3:27 PM

I thought he was ending it when he took office the first time.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
22 replies
mitzi421 May 27 2014 at 3:34 PM

It's sad, but more of our troops have died since Obama has been in office then the entire 8 years Bush was in office......that says something....you know what else does? The fact that we have been losing the war since Bush left office. What a failure, what a waste of
time, and what a waste of our precious soldiers...

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50 replies
vpqueen May 27 2014 at 3:29 PM

We're finishing the job we started.....

at the VA
on Benghazi
at the IRS
at..........

Flag Reply +99 rate up
17 replies
leslie May 27 2014 at 3:31 PM

This guy wouldn't make a boy scout, much less a leader!

Flag Reply +99 rate up
19 replies
teeveequeen May 27 2014 at 3:34 PM

LOL ... this man is delusional ... LOL

is it 2016 yet ???

Flag Reply +97 rate up
11 replies
ngagnon558 May 27 2014 at 3:26 PM

Well Mr President you certainly have finished the job for the Chief of Station there.
Nice going.....

Flag Reply +83 rate up
9 replies
rmorrell200 May 27 2014 at 3:29 PM

Hanging my head in shame.

Flag Reply +58 rate up
2 replies
ganderrrr rmorrell200 May 27 2014 at 3:50 PM

Why?

If the Afghans could be defeated, the Russians would have defeated them in the 80s.

Flag Reply +32 rate up
7 replies
Mike Jones rmorrell200 May 27 2014 at 4:11 PM

Rick has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he is talking about. The russians were fighing the Mujahideen. We, for the most part were fighting the Taliban.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
14 replies
thedon300z May 27 2014 at 3:27 PM

We will be shooting our way out the same as we did in Viet Nam. This war started to look more and more like Viet Nam a long time ago. Now it looks exactly the same to me.

Flag Reply +57 rate up
11 replies
debnaert May 27 2014 at 4:34 PM

NONE of this will matter in the next two years when Obamacare will BANKRUPT this country and each and every state will have to come up with BILLIONS to pay for all the MEDICAID participants. Liberals will be BLAMED for their incompetence and their DUMB BRAINS! TERM LIMITS! ! ! ! !

Flag Reply +39 rate up
7 replies
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