A U.S. soldier scans the horizon from behind a stone wall while on foot patrol… (Ted Aljibe / AFP/Getty Images )
President Obama is still weighing how many U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, though a decision is expected to be announced soon, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
"I can reiterate that an announcement will come soon," Carney told reporters at his televised briefing. "What I can say is the president has not yet made a decision."
Carney said Obama is "reviewing all of the options" and "is still in the process of finalizing" the size and scope of the drawdown.
There are more than 100,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, of whom 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 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.
Pentagon officials have tried to minimize the withdrawal while others, including Democrats and Republicans in Congress, are pressing for a substantial number of troops to be withdrawn. Reports indicate that the military is seeking to keep the number to less than 5,000 troops, while some lawmakers are seeking tens of thousands to be withdrawn.
Many U.S. mayors, meeting in Baltimore, also call for a sharply reduced presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, so that federal money now being spent on the wars can be used for their domestic needs instead.
Carney said that the president's decision on the troops would be based on the military situation on the ground in Afghanistan, but he added that the administration has made substantial progress in tearing down terror networks while building up Afghanistan's forces.
Carney did not give a timetable for the presidential announcement, but acknowledged that Obama is scheduled to fly to Fort Drum in upstate New York on Thursday, where he will meet with the 10th Mountain Division, which has been heavily involved in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Carney seemed to throw cold water on the idea that the announcement would come at that event.