WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is close to announcing the critical next phase in America’s decade-long war in Afghanistan, outlining both a plan to start bringing U.S. troops home next month and a broader withdrawal blueprint aimed at giving Afghans control of their own security in 2014.
But even as Obama nears a decision, there are deep divisions in his administration, with military leaders favoring a gradual reduction in troops but other advisers advocating a significant decrease in the coming months.
Administration officials say Obama is still deciding how many U.S. troops will start leaving Afghanistan in July, his self-imposed deadline for beginning the drawdown. He is considering a range of options from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and is expected to announce his decision this week. He is to visit troops Thursday at Fort Drum, the upstate New York military base that is home to the 10th Mountain Division, one of the most frequently deployed divisions to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“He’s finalizing his decision. He’s reviewing his options,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. He said Obama’s announcement would be soon.
While much of the attention is focused on how many troops will leave Afghanistan next month, the more telling aspects of Obama’s decision center on what happens after July, particularly how long the president plans to keep the 30,000 surge forces he sent in 2009 in the country.