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Obama plans Wednesday speech on Afghanistan mission

June 20, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli and Christi Parsons
(Larry Downing / Reuters )

President Obama plans to speak on the future of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday, senior administration officials said Monday.

The president is expected to announce his decision on the level of troop withdrawals, though it was unclear whether a final determination had been made. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at his daily briefing Monday that the president was "reviewing all of the options" and "is still in the process of finalizing" the size and scope of any proposed drawdown.

The venue for Obama's Wednesday speech was not disclosed. On Thursday, the president will visit Ft. Drum in New York, which is home to the 10th Mountain Division that has been heavily involved in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Carney would not say whether the visit was tied to his announcement.

There are more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, of which about 30,000 are considered part of the so-called surge, a rapid buildup designed to stabilize the country while Afghanistan builds up its own forces to fight the Taliban. 

Obama has said he would begin bringing U.S. troops home as soon as next month, but he has been in the process of deciding the size of the withdrawal. The killing of Osama bin Laden in May was a new factor being considered as Obama met with senior officials in recent weeks.

The president faces conflicting pressures from a war-weary public and lawmakers and military officials who want a more modest drawdown. Carney said the president's decision would be motivated by an assessment of the success of the mission to this point.

"There has been significant progress in disrupting, or halting, the momentum of the Taliban, and significant progress in stabilizing Afghanistan and the government to allow Afghan national security forces to build up, to train and prepare for taking over the lead," Carney said. "So he looks at this decision as a part of a process, of a policy he put in motion."

Michael Muskal contributed to this report

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