Obama set to unveil plans to bring 30,000 troops home

President ponders details of phased withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan

Under strong pressure to plot a clearer path towards ending the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama will today unveil his plans for a drawdown of troops, with the likely goal of bringing as many as 30,000 American soldiers home by the end of next year.

Mr Obama is due to spell out his plans at a press conference tonight. Tomorrow he will travel to the Fort Drum army base in upstate New York which has deployed large numbers to the war. As of now, the US component of the Nato force in Afghanistan numbers almost 100,000 soldiers.

Mr Obama is navigating between different factions both in the military and on Capitol Hill. While the clamour for a lessening of America's commitment to the conflict has been gaining in volume, there are still concerns that pulling out forces now would endanger the fragile progress that has been made against the Taliban insurgency and al-Qa'ida in the country.

That progress, coupled with the killing of Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan, has nonetheless handed Mr Obama a useful narrative to justify the withdrawals. While several media sources predicted he would call for a phased withdrawal of 30,000 men by the end of next year – equivalent to the troop surge he ordered at the end of 2009 – White House officials cautioned that he was still pondering the details.

"When the President makes a decision, we'll then announce it," one source said. "The reporting today is all over the map, and we're not playing whack-a-mole with the various scenarios."

Last night Mr Obama met Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who retires later this month, to finalise details of his withdrawal strategy. By the end of the year, "we will be transitioning in Afghanistan to turn over more and more security to the Afghan people," Mr Obama said at a fundraiser this week.

Before the meeting, Mr Gates, who has favoured a slow withdrawal of troops, acknowledged that military calculations are only part of the broader political equation for the President.

"It goes without saying that there are a lot of reservations in the Congress about the war in Afghanistan and our level of commitment. There are concerns among the American people who are tired of a decade of war," he told reporters.

While a number at or around 30,000 would help bolster the President's claim ahead of elections next year that he is sticking to a schedule that would see a complete withdrawal from the decade-long conflict by the end of 2014, it could be executed in a fashion to cushion the impact on military operations. Sources predicted that between 5,000 and 10,000 would be likely to come out before the end of this year, but many of those would be engineers and other supporting troops rather than fighting soldiers.

Among those uncertain about any significant reduction in troop numbers is Senator John McCain who was among those who lobbied for the surge 18 months ago. "That would be drawing down people before the job is finished, particularly in eastern Afghanistan," he noted yesterday.

"We have a lot of problems in Afghanistan, but the surge is working in southern Afghanistan and it can in the eastern part."

Factors playing against a more dramatic drawdown include the continuing concern in Washington about events in Pakistan. Relations with Islamabad remain as strained as ever after the killing of Bin Laden.

But even with those considerations, Mr Obama knows the war is increasingly unpopular, including with the left wing of his own party and with some Republicans. Weariness with the conflict is tied with frustrations over its enormous cost at a time when Washington is trying to wrestle down the budget deficit.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect