CBS News reports:
President Obama on Wednesday night informed the nation of his plans to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by fall of next year, marking the beginning of the end of an increasingly unpopular war.
“The tide of war is receding,” Mr. Obama said from the White House, promising that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will both come to a “responsible end.”
Ten thousand troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year, the president announced, with another 23,000 leaving no later than September 2012. That would leave roughly 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan to continue the decade-long war.
The New York Times reports:
[T]here are two reasons American planners hope to negotiate with the government of President Hamid Karzai an agreement to keep upward of 25,000 American forces in Afghanistan, even after the 30,000 “surge” troops are withdrawn over the next 14 months, and tens of thousands of more by the end of 2014.
Their first is to assure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base for attacks on the United States. But the more urgent reason is Pakistan. In his speech, Mr. Obama invited Pakistan to expand its peaceful cooperation in the region, but he also noted that Pakistan must live up to its commitments and that “the U.S. will never tolerate a safe haven for those who would destroy us.”
Pakistan has already made it clear, however, that it will never allow American forces to be based there. As relations have turned more hostile with the United States in recent months, it has refused to issue visas to large numbers of C.I.A. officers and seems to be moving quickly to close the American drone base in Shamsi, Pakistan.
For their part, administration officials make it clearer than ever that they view Pakistan’s harboring of terrorist groups as the more urgent problem. “We don’t see a transnational threat coming out of Afghanistan,” a senior administration official said Wednesday in briefing reporters before the president’s speech. Later he added, “The threat has come from Pakistan.”