Tonight President Obama announces in his prime time address to the nation that he will order 10,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011 and another 23,000 out by the end of next summer, ABC News has confirmed.
After months of review, the president's plan outlines the withdrawal all of the 33,000 "surge" troops that he deployed in December 2009, and committed to begin withdrawing in July.
The pace and scope of the withdrawal puts Obama at odds with the recommendation of the military, which warned against pulling out too many.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is set to retire at the end of the month, warned earlier this month that it would be premature to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan. Gates had noted in March that the gains in Afghanistan "are fragile and reversible."
On the other side, Obama faces a war-weary public. According to the latest ABC news polling, 73 percent of Americans say the United States should withdraw a substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer. Yet far fewer, 43 percent, think that will happen.
Americans also question the long-term impact of America's presence in Afghanistan. Fifty-seven percent say the war has contributed to the long-term security of the United States. But far fewer, 25 percent, say it has contributed "a great deal," which is the kind of payback many want to see, given the war's steep price tag. The United States has spent roughly $112 billion in Afghanistan this year alone.
The timeline outlined by the president tonight will undoubtedly have political implications for the 2012 election. According to his plan, the full surge forces will be home no later than September 2012, between the Democratic convention in August and Election Day in November.
With Congress mired in ongoing debt negotiations and the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit looming, lawmakers are urging the president to focus America's resources at home instead.
In a Senate speech Tuesday, freshman Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia said it was time to rebuild America, not Afghanistan, and that president should pursue significant troop reduction immediately.
Earlier in the week, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors also urged Congress to end both the Afghan and Iraq wars and invest the money instead on jobs at home.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the president's decision was "all about the mission that was laid out in December of 2009" but declined to comment on the specifics of the announcement.
In his address to the nation tonight, Obama will announce his blueprint to begin withdrawing troops in July, a promise he made when he ordered the 30,000 troop surge. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the president's decision process was "all about the mission that was laid out in December of 2009," but declined to comment on the specifics of the announcement.
"The parameters of the decision involve the beginning of the drawdown of U.S. forces," he said Tuesday. "As you know, we ramped up in a surge the number of forces in Afghanistan and we are at that peak point. And the president … made the commitment that forces would begin to draw down in July of 2011. He is keeping that commitment. And that's what he will announce tomorrow evening."
The president met with members of his national security team Tuesday and informed them of his decision.
The president met with members of his national security team today and informed them of his decision, but it has not been widely disseminated throughout the administration.