United States President Barack Obama announced that US troops in Afghanistan would begin to withdraw in July 2011 but now that may be pushed back, at least according to some senior US officials.
During President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point, New York last week to announce the 30,000 additional troops being sent to Afghanistan within the next six months, he also made the decision to set a time withdrawal for July 2011 but military officials and senior US officials say that may not happen.
Digital Journal reported last week that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen believes only a few US troops will begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, “There's no determination of how long that will take... There's no specific guidance with respect to how many. It could be very few; it could be a large number.”
Times Online is reporting that the July 2011 is not set in stone and that several US and foreign officials now say it just depends on “the conditions” if US and NATO forces withdraw. The British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said in an interview, “You can’t put a time on it. You’ve got to look at conditions.”
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the July 2011 deadline was not arbitrary, “The pace of ... bringing them home will depend on the circumstances on the ground. Those judgments will be made by our commanders in the field.” Gates further iterated Mullen’s sentiments that if troops do leave Afghanistan in that time frame then it may only be a small amount.
Gates was on ABC’s “This Week,” according to Fox News, and told viewers that the US military will not leave Afghanistan “abruptly” until the Taliban poses less of a threat, especially in the north will most of the surge will occur.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also added, “We’re not talking about an exit strategy or a drop-dead deadline. What we’re talking about is an assessment that ... we can begin a transition, a transition to hand off responsibility to the Afghan forces.”
Also last week, Digital Journal reported that the White House authorized the CIA to increase the number of unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, which will eventually expand the war into Afghanistan’s neighbour.