Washington, Dec.7 (ANI): The Obama administration has reportedly told American military forces to remain in Afghanistan for as long as required, and added that it is wrong to assume that an early exit is in the offing.
The announcement was made to counter criticism that President Obama had sent the wrong signal in his war-strategy speech last week by projecting July 2011 as the start of a withdrawal.
According to the New York Times, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials used the medium of television to scotch rumours of an early troop pullout. They said that any pullout thought off, would begin slowly in July 2011. Americans would only be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces under Obama's new plan, they added.
The television appearances by the senior members of Mr. Obama's war council seemed to be part of a focused and determined effort to ease concerns about the president's emphasis on setting a date for reducing America's presence in Afghanistan after more than eight years of war.
"We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times," said Gen. James L. Jones, the president's national security adviser, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union." "We're going to be in the region for a long time."
Gates also played down the significance of the July 2011 target date. "There isn't a deadline," Gates said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"What we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security district by district, province by province in Afghanistan, to the Afghans," he added.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," CENTCOM chief General David Petraeus said that the Obama administration was not planning a "rush to the exits" in Afghanistan, and that depending on the security conditions there could be tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for several years. (ANI)