WASHINGTON, D.C. (
) -- President Barack Obama announced plans Wednesday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The drawdown is expected to start next month, which would fulfill a promise that Obama made when he announced an increase in troop deployment in the country in December 2009 during an appearance at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
In a televised speech on Wednesday night, the president said he expects to be able to bring 10,000 troops home before 2011 draws to a close, and a total of 33,000 home by the summer of 2012.
"Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals," Obama said in the speech. "As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point."
Obama said that, after this first round of drawdowns, troops would be coming home from Afghanistan at a "steady pace" with the goal of completing a transition of control to Afghan security forces by 2014. There are roughly 97,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at present.
"We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength," Obama said. "Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda's leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known."
The president also provided some information on what kind of information was found in bin Laden's compound, saying the U.S. found evidence that al Qaeda is "under enormous strain," and that bin Laden himself "expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam - thereby draining more widespread support."
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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