President Obama announced an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Wednesday night, with 10,000 troops due back by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer.
“The tide of war is receding,” he said. “Americans, It is time to focus on nation building here at home.”
The decision will reduce the number of troops down to pre-2009 surge levels, though it will leave more than 70,000 in Afghanistan — more than when Obama took office. The president said the killing of Osama bin Laden helped to justified the decision:
The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al-Qaida under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al-Qaida has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al-Qaida has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam - thereby draining more widespread support.
The announcement represents a break with advice from top military personnel, including General David Petraeus, in favor of Vice-President Joe Biden’s vision for faster, more politically expedient disengagement in the country. Biden might seem like an underdog choice, mano e mano against Petraeus, but he can be charming.
This post has been updated with additional information.