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Archive for June, 2011

Obama’s Troop Drawdown Is Little, Late, But a Start

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

In Announcing 15-month, 1/3 Troop Reduction, Is President Ignoring or Responding to Public Opinion and Bipartisan Congressional Trend Against War?

The announcement of a 33,000-troop drawdown is more than we would have gotten from the previous president; bu though we’re disappointed at the glacial pace, peace activists must keep pressing for a quicker end to the Afghan War.

When President Obama took office in Jan. 2009 there were 34,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In his first year he doubled that number to about 65,000, and then in Dec. 2009 he announced a “surge” of 30,000 more. Since August 2010 U.S. forces in Afghanistan have numbered 100,000. In announcing a drawdown of 33,000 troops by next summer, the president now in effect acknowledges that the counter-insurgency strategy favored by General David Petraeus is not working, or has reached its limits; American troops now will pursue a counter-terrorism strategy. Last night in a 13-minute address Obama announced:

. . . starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. [transcript of remarks here]

But this will only bring us back to the roughly 65,000 troops that were stationed in Afghanistan when Obama announced the surge. And when our mission changes in 2014 “from combat to support,” how many American troops will still be in Afghanistan? Our mission in Iraq, too, has changed from combat to support, yet we still have 85,000 active duty military personnel stationed in Iraq at a monthly cost of about $4 billion. (For that matter, U.S. military personnel number some 50,000 in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, and 25,000 in South Korea. How long does the government intend to keep this going?)

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