President Barack Obama said Friday that the United States would stay in Afghanistan until “the job is done,” despite his July 2011 deadline for some American troops to start coming home.
In an interview with the BBC Persian service, Obama said that it was in Afghan as well as US interests that the size of the American garrison in Afghanistan was gradually wound down.
“We are going to stay there until the job is done. The job is to provide Afghans themselves the capacity to secure their own country,” Obama said.
“The July 2011 date is a date in which, having ramped up our armed presence in Afghanistan … we will then start gradually reducing the number of US troops and coalition troops that are inside of Afghanistan.”
“That’s something that I think the Afghan people want. Afghans are a very proud people, and this is a sovereign government, adding that the US would begin withdrawing once the Afghan army and police was trained to replace them.
“We’re not going to suddenly leave, turn off the lights and go home on that date,” he said.
“What will happen is, as we are training up more and more Afghan security forces, they’re becoming more effective, we will transition so that they are starting to take over more responsibility for security.
“And slowly, the United States’ troop presence, as well as coalition troop presence, will diminish.”
Obama’s critics in Washington have complained that the president’s desire to announce a date when some troop withdrawals can begin offered an incentive to the Taliban in Afghanistan to wait the Americans out.
A new book due to be published by legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on Monday is expected to detail how Obama fought to create an exit route for US troops from Afghanistan, fearing the war could drag on for years.