Mapping out a timeline to end America’s longest war, President Barack Obama announced plans for keeping nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after this year but then withdrawing virtually all by the close of 2016. This would also mark the conclusion of his presidency.
The war, started in 2001 by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was to make major blows to terrorist group al-Qaida and its leadership, which included Osama bin Laden, who was captured and killed in 2011 under Obama’s command. Now, the president says, is the time to begin focusing on finishing what was started 13 years ago.
“We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” Obama said during an appearance in the White House. “Now we’re finishing the job we’ve started.”
Some republicans, however, criticize Obama’s decision to end the Afghan war, something the president has vowed to do when first campaigning for the Oval Office. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire called the decision “short-sighted” and warned that it would embolden enemies and possibly put America at risk.
“The president’s decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy,” the three said in a joint statement.
U.S. forces had already been on track to stop combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But President Obama wants to keep some troops there to train Afghan security forces, launch counterterrorism missions and protect progress made in a war that has left at least 2,181 Americans dead and thousands more wounded. There are currently about 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Under Obama’s plan, that number would be reduced to 9,800 by the start of 2015, dispatched throughout Afghanistan.
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)