War to end, troop pullout to hasten
WASHINGTON (PAN): Expressing satisfaction over the progress being made by Afghan forces, US President Barack Obama on Friday announced coalition forces would move to a support role this spring and the war will come to a responsible end by next year.
“Today, we agreed that, as Afghan forces take the lead and as President Karzai announces the final phase of transition, coalition forces will move to a support role this spring,” Obama said at a joint news conference with the visiting Afghan leader.
At their talks, Obama and Karzai agreed to step up the process of pulling out NATO-led forces from Afghanistan by late 2014. “Make no mistake: Our path is clear and we are moving forward,” Obama said.
Currently, about 66,000 US troops are stationed in Afghanistan, where local forces lead some 80 percent of security operations.
Next year, the long war would come to a responsible end, he said, reiterating Afghans would be in the lead throughout the country, but that did not mean that coalition forces would be no longer fighting.
“It does mean, though, that Afghans will have taken the lead and our presence, the nature of our work will be different. We will be in training, assisting and advising role. Obviously, we will still have troops there, and that means that our men and women will still be in harm's way…”
He acknowledged Afghan soldiers were stepping up at great risk to themselves, paving the way for transition during the spring. However, he explained, a drawdown of US troops was not yet fully determined.
“I can't give you a precise number at this point. I'll probably make a separate announcement once I've gotten recommendations from the generals and our commanders, in terms of what that drawdown might look like,” Obama continued.
After 2014, training, assisting and advising Afghan forces, as well as making sure that the US could continue to go after remnants of Al Qaida or other affiliates would be his administration’s priorities in Afghanistan.
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