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President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday night, discussing the Afghanistan war. He promised that 33,000 American troops will be out of the nation by the fall of 2012. Both sides of the aisle have expressed disappointment at the slow pace of the withdrawal.
“My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country,” he said. “Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.”
The 33,000 troops are part of the “surge” that Obama announced in his 2009 speech. That will leave approximately 68,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan, which is still significantly higher than the amount that was in the country when Obama took office.
“Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way,” Obama added. “We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.”
Obama tried to strike a middle ground between the isolationism that is the new wave in Congress and the ongoing interventionism of the Bush years.
“We must chart a more centered course,” said the president. “Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force — but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.”
The Obama administration attempted to frame the withdrawal as a result of success in the Middle Eastern nation, stating that the new strategy was coming from a position of “strength and success.” Earlier on Wednesday, both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they would accept the president’s new strategy as long as it had the backing of military leaders.