President Obama announced Wednesday night that all of the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home within the next 15 months.
In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the so-called "surge" forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012. The troop withdrawals will begin next month, as promised when Obama ordered the surge in a speech 18 months ago. (Chart: U.S. troop levels over the years)
After the departure of all the surge forces, the total U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan would be just under 70,000 troops. Obama's time frame would give U.S. commanders another two "fighting" seasons with the bulk of U.S. forces still available for combat operations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed doubt in the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan Thursday, saying, "I'm not confident it's going to work."
In an interview that aired Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," the five-term Nevada senator said, "The president has indicated as commander-in-chief he is going to start drawing down the forces this summer."
Reid also noted the $100 billion the country is spending, calling it a "huge amount of money" that the nation "cannot continue to keep dumping" into the Afghanistan war. FULL POST
U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Zardari met at the White House on Friday.
Their discussion focused on fighting terrorism and "the importance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan," the White House said in a statement.
"The President underscored the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and our continued support for Pakistan," it said.
Zardari is in Washington to attend a memorial service Friday for diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who was Obama's envoy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Holbrooke died last month.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden huddled with Zardari on Wednesday in Islamabad during his unannounced visit to the region. Biden also met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and senior military officials.
- CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report
During the Obama administration's review of its Afghan policy, Vice President Joe Biden was a fierce advocate for a narrowly focused counterterrorism strategy.
He had long been skeptical of the more expansive counterinsurgency approach with 30,000 additional troops ultimately decided upon by the president, arguing that pursuing al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and on the Afghan border was a smarter way to go.
Like any good second-in-command who has been overruled, Biden got on board with the president's new direction. Still, he has been openly critical of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's lackluster efforts to tackle corruption and has questioned his credibility as a partner. FULL POST
Editor's note: Amitai Etzioni is a sociologist and professor of international relations at George Washington University and the author of several books, including "Security First" and "New Common Ground." He was a senior adviser to the Carter administration and has taught at Columbia and Harvard universities and the University of California, Berkeley.
President Obama is reviewing, again, what we are doing in Afghanistan. He should order our diplomats and generals to stop turning a blind eye to the widespread sexual abuse of children.
At the time our troops helped liberate Afghanistan in 2001, pedophilia had been largely curbed by the Taliban. However, since then, some Pashtun men have have been abusing the new freedoms for which our young men and women are dying - to molest young boys.
This vile practice has been recently documented by an Afghan journalist who returned to his native country for public television's "Frontline."
The program starts with a flat statement: "In an Afghanistan ravaged by war and poverty, an ancient tradition has been secretly revived: Young boys sold by their families to wealthy merchants and warlords, taught to dance and entertain, and used for sex."Read the full story
President Barack Obama asserted Thursday that the United States is making significant progress in the nine-year war in Afghanistan, but warned that the conflict "continues to be a very difficult endeavor."
We are "on track to achieve our goals" of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and eroding "its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," he said. The gains, however, are fragile.
The president noted, among other things, that there has been a "successful increase" in the recruitment and training of Afghan forces due partly to the July 2011 deadline set by the administration to start withdrawing the U.S. military.Read the full story
A review of the war in Afghanistan coming out this week won't change current plans to start withdrawing some U.S. troops in July, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Tuesday.
"The view is that our transition can begin - the conditions-based transition of our added forces - in July 2011," Gibbs said of the planned withdrawal of some of the additional forces ordered to Afghanistan a year ago by President Barack Obama.
Gibbs spoke to reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting involving Obama and all of his senior Cabinet and military advisers to go over the upcoming review. Obama will make a public statement about the review on Thursday, Gibbs said.
President Barack Obama meets the national security team during a monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Situation Room of the White House.
A long-awaited U.S. military analysis of the war in Afghanistan is expected later this week, a year after President Obama ordered additional U.S. troops to the country as part of a strategy that could bring some forces home as soon as July 2011. Officials have said the goal is to end combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.
President Barack Obama is set to huddle behind closed doors with his national security team Tuesday to review the administration's policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan - one day after the unexpected death of his diplomatic point man for the region.
Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, America's special envoy to the so-called "AfPak" region, died Monday while being treated at a Washington hospital for a tear in his aorta.
Obama's monthly review of policy toward the pivotal region, however, is scheduled to continue, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon among those in attendance. FULL POST
[Update 1:59 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Friday, personally delivering holiday greetings to U.S. troops stationed there and promising continued full support in the war against Taliban and other extremists. More on Obama's visit and his scheduled meeting with Karzai
Watch an excerpt from the speech:
Or read a recap of the speech as it was happening:
[Update 1:28 p.m. ET] Obama wraps up his address to the troops.
[Update 1:26 p.m. ET] Obama cites the story Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the recent recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan.
[Update 1:23 p.m. ET] Although Americans have their differences, Obama says, there is no hesitation back home "to give support to our men and women in the military service ... We're going to spare no effort to make sure your families have support as well." FULL POST