US President Barack Obama will announce the first phase of promised troop reductions in Afghanistan in a televised address this evening in Washington. He is expected to unveil plans to remove some 5,000 troops starting next month and perhaps double that figure by the end of the year.
A source in Congress said next year might see a pullout of the rest of the 30,000 extra “surge” troops he ordered deployed 18 months ago.
Obama has to weigh arguments from military chiefs and political advisers. Some say ‘pull the 100,000 out slowly; do not weaken against the Taliban’. Others say ‘Osama bin Laden is dead; think of re-election.’
The military mission is costing $110 billion a year (76 billion euros), with budgets tight and unemployment high at home.
A record 56 percent of Americans are reported in favour of bringing all US forces back as soon as possible.