The United States next month will begin withdrawing the first of 10,000 troops that will leave Afghanistan by year’s end and 33,000 in total that will come home from there by mid 2012, President Obama told the nation Wednesday evening in an address from the White House. This withdrawal will reduce US troop levels there by roughly a third, reversing the troop surge that Obama directed in December 2009 to refocus efforts against Al Qaeda and counter Taliban momentum. “Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals,” stated Obama, allowing him to fulfill his commitment to begin the withdrawal in July. Obama said after this initial reduction, US troops “will continue coming home at a steady pace” as Afghan security forces move into the lead. “Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security,” he explained. (White House blog entry, with video of address.) (See also Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ statement)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.