Obama To Discuss Pulling Out Troops In Afghanistan
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
: Tonight, President Obama will describe to the nation how he plans to bring the war in Afghanistan to a successful close. He's following up on a pledge that he made in December of 2009, when he announced a surge of 30,000 troops to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.
BARACK OBAMA: These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.
: We're joined now by NPR national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. And Mara, what is the significance of the speech tonight and what are we likely to hear in it?
MARA LIASSON: So I think this is a speech to talk about how the war in Afghanistan is winding down, but also why it's worth fighting a little longer.
: Now, we've watched President Obama go through this kind of decision- making process before. I want you to describe what the competing interests were that he had to balance this time around to arrive at this speech.
LIASSON: But once again, as he did with the surge decision itself, he decided not to go all the way to a very light footprint just focused on counterterrorism, as some in his administration had argued for, but he did have to weigh the need to succeed in Afghanistan. He can't just pull out and have it all fall apart, at the same time that he's aware there is war weariness in the country and in general, in Congress, there's a lot of fiscal pressure. This war costs $10 billion a month.
: Yes. You've described what the generals would like to see. What kind of pushback is he likely to get from Democrats and Republicans in Congress?
LIASSON: It's been interesting. The president has even gotten some pushback from Republicans who - the Republican party is going through a sea change of sorts. They think - many of them think the war is too expensive. Some of the leading Republican candidates for president want the troops to come home sooner. What he's not getting, interestingly enough, is what he's gotten in the past, which is pushback from Republicans who think he's not pursuing this war vigorously enough.
: Mara, though, we use the phrase war-weary public commonly now. What kind of data is there to back up the idea that the country is weary of the war in Afghanistan?
LIASSON: Well, there are a lot of polls, including a new one from the Pew Research Center, which says that 56 percent - this is the first time a majority of Americans had said that U.S. troops should be brought home as soon as possible. They're not saying, pull out now, but they're saying as soon as possible. They want this war to be over.
: Thank you, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you, Robert.
: That's NPR national political correspondent, Mara Liasson.
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