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Administration Official: Withdrawal Will Be "Dictated by Conditions on the Ground"

3:00 PM, Dec 1, 2009 • By JAMIE FLY
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On a conference call with reporters, a senior Obama administration official said that during his speech on Afghanistan tonight, President Obama will reaffirm the "core goal of the United States in the region," which is to "disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan." The president will announce a surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan by the summer of 2010. The mission of the troops will be to "reverse the Taliban's momentum ... secure key population centers especially in the South and the East ... [and] train Afghan forces."

The surge will last for a "defined period of time," which Obama will specify during his speech tonight. The official said Obama will also specify that in July of 2011 "we will begin to transfer our lead responsibility--that is U.S. and NATO lead responsibility for combat operations--to Afghan counterparts. He will not, however, tonight specify the end of that transition process, nor will he specify the pace at which it will proceed. Those variables, pace and end, will be dictated by conditions on the ground."

The official asserted that this is "not an open-ended commitment."