President Obama is giving a speech on Wednesday announcing his decision on how quickly to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan. Marc Ambinder reports:
Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, would endorse a presidential announcement that the 30,000 troops committed as part of a 2009 surge to the country would be back home by end of 2012, military and administration officials told National Journal earlier on Monday.
Formally, Petraeus wants to withdraw one brigade combat team of about 5,000 troops by the end of the year, and another 5,000 by the spring of next year. But mindful that the political environment in the U.S. and in Congress has turned sharply against the war, Petraeus is aware that the extra brigades he inherited cannot remain in place through 2014, when control of the country's security is scheduled to be officially turned over to indigenous Afghan forces.
Petraeus is expected to be confirmed as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency by September. He wants his successor, Lt. Gen. John Allen, to keep the extra brigades operational as long as possible. If they stay in the theater until the end of 2012, their force presence would equal the duration that troops surged to Iraq spent there.
It will be interesting to see how closely this matches Obama's announcement; my guess would be fairly closely, as the attribution to "senior military and administration officials," plural, does not suggest a rogue leak of a position the president might oppose.
UPDATE: Responding to this post on Twitter, Ambinder says: "not a rogue leak but not an official one either. we shall see!"
LATER UPDATE: Well, it seems I was totally wrong. The LA Times is now reporting that Obama is planning to withdraw about 10,000 troops by the end of the year, "a steeper drawdown than Gen. David H. Petraeus and senior Pentagon officials preferred."
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