President Barack Obama vowed Thursday that Afghanistan would not become a "permanent protectorate" of the United States as he defended his decision to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011.
Speaking to CBS in his first interview since announcing his new Afghan strategy last week, Obama warned that without a deadline some Afghans would take America's provision of security for granted.
"There are I think elements in Afghanistan who would be perfectly satisfied to make Afghanistan a permanent protectorate of the United States, in which they carry no burden, in which we're paying for a military in Afghanistan that preserves their security and their prerogatives," he told the network.
"That's not what the American people signed up for when they went into Afghanistan in 2001. They signed up to go after al-Qaeda."
Without a deadline, "the message we are sending to the Afghans is, 'It's business as usual. This is an open-ended commitment,'" Obama said in excerpts of an interview with the "60 Minutes" program to be aired in full on Sunday.
In a Dec. 1 speech announcing he would send 30,000 more U.S. troops to the war, Obama named a date for a drawdown to begin, but he has not stated a deadline for completion of the withdrawal.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen told CBS this week the number of soldiers leaving in 2011 could be "very few."
Republicans have harshly criticized Obama over the July 2011 date, saying it gives encouragement to the Taliban, but the deadline was seen as a way to pacify the anti-war lobby which is part of the president's political base.
Speaking in Oslo on Thursday as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama said he was "unambiguous" about his July 2011 date for the start of a U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, adding there should be no debate about his decision.
"Beginning on July 2011 we are beginning to transfer responsibility to the Afghan people and Afghan security forces," Obama said after talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
That's not what the American people signed up for when they went into Afghanistan in 2001. They signed up to go after al-Qaeda
U.S. President Barack Obama