Obama to make prime-time address Wednesday on Afghan troop withdrawal

The surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan succeeded in driving the Taliban out of its strongholds. Now, with his drawdown date fast approaching, President Obama must decide how to handle that success. David Martin reports.

UPDATED 2:48 p.m. ET

President Obama is expected to announce a drawdown of some of the "surge" of 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan in 2009.

President Obama plans to announce a substantial drawdown of troops from Afghanistan in a high profile speech in prime-time television Wednesday night, making good on his 2009 pledge to start bringing soldiers home by July 2011.

Mr. Obama coupled his decision to send a "surge" of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009 with a promise to bring some of them home this summer.

"The president will keep the commitment he made in December of 2009 to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan next month," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

The 8:00 p.m. ET speech will be the sixth address to the nation since taking office in January 2009, according to records kept by Mark Knoller of CBS News.

Carney told reporters Obama made a final decision Tuesday and informed a small circle of key advisers, though the spokesman was coy with reporters about the scope and pace of the drawdown.

Published reports are all over the map.

The Los Angeles Times reports Mr. Obama plans to say 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by year's end. The Associated Press reports Mr. Obama plans to reduce the number of troops by up to 5,000 next month, as well as a broader plan for recalling the additional 25,000 troops. That would still leave 70,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Administration officials told the New York Times that Mr. Obama would most likely pull out all 30,000 "surge" troops by the end of 2012.

Politico reported that Obama is expected to announced his intention to withdraw 33,000 troops by the end of next year, including at least 5,000 by the end of this year.

Mr. Obama is scheduled on Thursday to visit the Fort Drum Army base in upstate New York, home of the 10th Mountain Division, which has been heavily involved in Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday reiterated an earlier comment that any decision has to be politically credible and Mr. Obama has to factor in public and congressional opinion in any decision.

"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," Gates told reporters at the State Department after a joint meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their counterparts from Japan. Clinton declined comment.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said "the notable improvement in the security situation" in Afghanistan allows "for a reduction of at least 15,000 U.S. troops by the end of this year."

Asked if the announcement would please those who are "war-weary," Carney said he would not prejudge "how his decision will be viewed by different segments of society but you can believe that it will be a decision made on the merits, on what he views as the successes that we have had in the implementation of his strategy."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan
  • Corbett Daly On Twitter»

    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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