Obama making speech about Afghanistan 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool)
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he will withdraw 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan by year's end and a total of 33,000 by the summer of 2012.
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In a nationally televised speech outlining a shift in US policy after a decade of war, Obama said that after the initial reduction, more troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan at a steady pace as Afghans take over their own security by 2014.
"America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said.
Obama said the United States is able to remove troops as al-Qaida is under more pressure than at any time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that precipitated the war.
He said the United States will join initiatives aimed at reconciling the Afghan people, including the Taliban, as the Afghan government and security forces are strengthened.
"This is the beginning - but not the end -- of our effort to wind down
this war," Obama said, saying huge challenges remain there.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates firmly backed Obama's plan to withdraw around a third of US forces from Afghanistan.
"I support the president's decision because it provides our commanders
with enough resources, time and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility
to bring the surge to a successful conclusion," Gates, who steps down at
the end of the month, said in a statement.