President Obama, declaring that it was “time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” announced on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
Under a new timetable outlined by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden, the 32,000 American troops now in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 after this year. That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016, there would be only a vestigial force to protect the embassy in Kabul and to help the Afghans with military purchases and other security matters. At the height of American involvement, in 2011, the United States had 101,000 troops in the country. Mr. Obama said the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan would free up resources to confront an emerging terrorist threat stretching from the Middle East to Africa — a strategy he plans to detail in a commencement address on Wednesday at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
“Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” he said. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century.” Despite Mr. Obama’s attempt to signal the end of 13 years of American military engagement in Afghanistan, the United States will continue to have troops engaged in lethal counter terrorism operations there for at least two more years. The president also conceded that the United States would leave behind a deeply ambiguous legacy. “We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” he said. “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.” –thenews