U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday said there were no plans for “sudden” changes to the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and confirmed NATO forces will switch to a support role next year.
Despite a number of bloody incidents involving U.S. troops in recent weeks, Obama said the United States would be sticking with a timetable already agreed with its NATO partners.
“I don’t anticipate at this stage that we’re going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have,” Obama, the nation’s commander-in-chief told a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron after White House talks.
“We have already taken out 10,000 of our troops. We’re slated to draw down an additional 23,000 by this summer.”
Obama said in their talks the two leaders had “reaffirmed the transition plan” which sets out “shifting to a support role in 2013 in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility in 2014.”
“We’re going to complete this mission and we’re going to do it responsibly and NATO will make sure that Afghanistan never becomes a place for an attack on our countries,” Obama told a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
Cameron meanwhile vowed he would not “give up” on the Afghanistan war even though Britain was in the final stages of the military mission there.
“Britain has fought alongside America ever since the start. We have 9,500 soldiers still serving,” he recalled.
And he said he believed “the situation is considerably improved” with the U.S. surge in addition to the “additional UK troops that we put in had had a transformative effect. The level of insurgent attacks are down and the level of security is right up.”
Obama acknowledged that people on both sides of the Atlantic were weary of the decade-long war launched at the end of the 2001 to oust the hardline Taliban leadership, blamed for giving safe haven to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
But he defended the actions, saying al-Qaeda, which masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States was now weakened.
“I think the vast majority of the American people and British understand why we went there,” he said.
“There is a reason why al-Qaeda is on its heels and has been decimated. There is a reason why Osama bin Laden is not in a position to be able to execute plots against the United States or Great Britain.
“It’s because the space has shrunk and their ability to operate is greatly diminished.”