miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011

Barack Obama to announce Afghanistan troop decision

 A US soldier on foot patrol in Khost province US troops first entered Afghanistan in autumn 2001 following the 9/11 attacks 
US President Barack Obama will use a prime-time TV address to unveil plans for an initial withdrawal of thousands of US troops from Afghanistan.
Speaking on Wednesday evening, he is expected to say that 30,000 "surge" troops will begin leaving in July - with most gone by 2013, US media say.
The US currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Divisions remain within the Obama administration over the size and speed of the pullout.
Military commanders are thought to want to limit the number of combat troops removed from the country in an effort not to lose ground gained from the Taliban during recent fighting.
Reports of Mr Obama's announcement come after departing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that the US was holding "outreach" talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It was the first time the US had acknowledged such contact.
The Afghan defence ministry welcomed the decision to withdraw foreign troops.
The US may be setting a timetable for withdrawing its forces - but there are many questions over the first phase of the security transition. In the past few weeks, insurgents have launched what Afghan intelligence officials say is a carefully planned wave of attacks in all of the areas to be handed over by Nato.
In Panjshir, insurgents tried to detonate a car full of explosives but it exploded before it could reach its target. On Tuesday, the influential governor of Parwan province, Abdul Basir Salangi, a close ally President Karzai, survived an assassination attempt. In the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a bomb explosion injured two civilians.
In some areas, insurgents have blockaded cities and towns, leaving thousands short of food and medicines.
Afghanistan's police and army are still dependent on coalition forces for air support, food, ammunition and roadside bomb-clearing. In addition, they have high rates of desertion and drug addiction, as well as "rogue" soldiers - there have been a number of incidents in which men in uniform have turned their weapons on Nato and Afghan colleagues.
"We appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by the foreign forces in Afghanistan, but at the same time we congratulate them for returning back to their homelands after a long period of war," a spokesman said.
"The Afghan National Army [ANA] is ready to fill their space but they will face some problems in this area as they still lack weapons and equipment."
Afghan forces are due to take over all security operations by 2014, but BBC correspondents say they are a long way away from being ready for that.
'Gains could be threatened' Mr Obama will make his address from the White House at 2000 local time (0000 GMT on Thursday), the White House press office said.
He is expected to announce the withdrawal of as many as 5,000 troops next month, the Associated Press reported.
Most of the 30,000 additional "surge" troops Mr Obama ordered deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 are to be withdrawn from the country by the end of 2012, CNN reported.
Under the plan the US military would aim to gradually hand over all security operations to Afghan security forces by 2014.
US military leaders are thought to favour a very gradual reduction in troops but other advisers advocate a more significant decrease in the coming months.

Start Quote

We will hear a lot in the coming days about whether the pull-out is too quick or too slow, but it is worth remembering that we are only talking about the extra 30,000 troops Mr Obama has sent” 
Earlier this month, Mr Gates said at Nato headquarters that "substantial progress" was being made on the ground in Afghanistan.
But he argued that "these gains could be threatened if we do not proceed with the transition to Afghan security lead in a deliberate, organised and co-ordinated manner".
"Even as the United States begins to draw down in the next month, I assured my fellow ministers there will be no rush to the exits on our part."
But some believe the security gains being talked about mean a more rapid withdrawal of US forces is practical.
There is also growing political pressure for a significant withdrawal.
A bipartisan group of 27 US senators sent Mr Obama a letter last week pressing for a shift in strategy.
"Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops," the senators wrote. "The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits."
US troops carry injured comrade US troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001
While many Afghans accept that American troops are needed to defeat the Taliban, correspondents say that they resent their presence in the country.
The war is in its 10th year, civilian casualties are at an all-time high, and correspondents say the population has grown weary of the fighting. Insurgents are to blame for most of the deaths, but killings by foreign troops generate widespread outrage.