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By Tejinder Singh<
The head of NATO signaled his approval of President Barack Obama's speech in which he declared American troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan next month.
Welcoming the decision, Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted that he had spoken with Obama on the "U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan."
"It is a result of the progress made in Afghanistan," said Rasmussen, adding, "Our role can gradually change from combat to support. Beyond end of combat mission, NATO and Afghanistan have partnership that will endure."
The NATO chief hailed the American troop surge in 2009 saying, "In December 2009 US increased their forces by 30.000 troops. Other nations provided nearly 10.000 additional troops to Afghanistan."
Rasmussen sounded optimistic as he tweeted, "Afghan security forces are getting stronger every day. Transition to Afghan security lead is on track to be completed in 2014."
Addressing the nation from the White House in a speech that lasted just more than 13 minutes, President Obama announced drawdown of the "surge" and minced no words in warning Pakistan to stop harboring terrorists.
Going back to the 2009 surge when he ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan, President Obama recalled his commitment that "We would begin to drawdown our forces this July."
"Starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point," Obama said.
On further reduction of American troops in Afghanistan, Obama made another commitment, saying, "After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead."
Changing the mission "from combat to support," Obama said, "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."
"We killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11," said Obama. "The information that we recovered from bin Laden's compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed."
Recognizing the "terrorist safe-havens" in Pakistan, the President minced no words in warning Islamabad, "For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve."
President Obama did not stop only at his drawdown program but called on Americans to get together to "unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means."
"We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy," said Obama.
Reiterating his commitment to end the wars, Obama concluded, "Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story."
Later, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the President's troop withdrawal plan.
Expressing his concern "that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains," McCain said, "This is not the 'modest' withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated."
In a way praising the leadership of Obama, McCain said, "Though we have been fighting in Afghanistan for a decade, it has only been in the past 18 months that we have had the right leadership, the right strategy, and the right level of resources."
"Though I disagree with the President's withdrawal plan, I nonetheless believe that America's interests in Afghanistan are far too important for us to give up the fight and walk away, as many in Congress and elsewhere now advocate," said McCain.
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