US President Barack Obama will announce the first phase of promised troop reductions in Afghanistan — possibly 5,000 starting next month — in a televised address at 8.00 p.m. local time in Washington. Obama ordered 30,000 extra “surge” troops into Afghanistan 18 months ago, bringing their number to some 100,000.
Some military chiefs are advising that the US should pull them out slowly so as not to weaken the forces against the Taliban. Others believe that with Osama bin Laden dead, the president has to think about his re-election prospects.
Afghanistan continues to claim US soldiers’ and allied lives and is now costing Americans 76 billion euros per year. Ordinary Afghans have mixed feelings.
One resident of Kabul said: “I am happy for the troops to go but I’m also worried, because our leaders do not have the courage to defend our provinces if the foreigners leave.”
Former Afghan army general Javeed Kohestani said: “The pullout of 10,000 to 15,000 American troops from the south will definitely impact security in Afghanistan, because these troops are stationed near borders with Pakistan. If they leave, the insurgents will easily cross the border and infiltrate Afghanistan.”
A record 56 percent of Americans are reported to be in favour of bringing all US forces back home as soon as possible.
Afghan troops would then face the battle-hardened Taliban Islamist fundamentalists increasingly on their own.