ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports:
The president has made a final decision on the pace and scope of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the White House announced today, while refusing to comment on any of the specifics.
In an address to the nation tomorrow night 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 said today that the president’s decision process was “all about the mission that was laid out in December of 2009.”
“The parameters of the decision involve the beginning of the drawdown of U.S. forces. 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,” Carney said.
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.
“He's met with members of his national security team principals, as well as others in his national security team a number of times. And those meetings continued up through today,” Carney said. “Again, this is not something that he was starting from scratch on, so he has been working through his decision over the course of the last several weeks and finalized that decision today.”
While speculation abounds as to the number of troops that will be withdrawn, Carney said that the reports are just that, speculation. “I think it's testament to the fact that every story has a different answer on what he's going to announce that the stories you're reading are speculation, and that the president's decision will be known when he announces it,” he said. “In fact, a lot of the stories came out before he had even finalized his decision.”
There are currently over 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 30,000 of whom were part of the surge designed to stabilize the war-torn country while it boosts its own forces. When Obama announced the surge, he also vowed to “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”
“Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government — and, more importantly, to the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country,” the president said in December 2009.
Obama will likely make the argument tomorrow night that the U.S. has made significant progress toward achieving his goals; to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda, break the momentum of the Taliban, and stabilize the situation so that Afghan security forces can begin the process of taking over security.
“This president made the decision that this was a strategy that was right for national security interests of this country. It is a strategy that we believe has led to our successes in taking the fight to Al Qaeda, including in the successful mission against Osama bin Laden. It has led to our successes in stopping the momentum of the Taliban and to our successes in training up Afghan security forces and preparing them to take the security lead,” Carney said today.
Asked how much consideration the president gave to waning public support for the war, Carney said “I think we're all aware of what the public generally thinks. I think the public is interested in the right policy and a policy that is succeeding in achieving its very clearly specified goals.”
“That's why the president wants to speak to the nation tomorrow. And he's not doing it during the day, and he wants to do it at night, so he can reach the American people and explain this decision, make clear that he is keeping the commitment that he made in December of 2009 to begin this drawdown, and explain again why this is important,” he added.