By end of 2012
Spain to follow US in withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
Barack Obama announced plans on Thursday to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end this year and a further 23,000 by the end of 2012. European countries are following suit.
US President Barack Obama announced a phased pullout of troops toend a costly war in Afghanistan, while the Arab country faced freshturmoil after a court overturned results from last year''s fraud-taintedelection.
Obama''s plan to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end ofthe year and a further 23,000 by the end of next summer won immediatesupport from France''s president.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Washington''s ally in a relationship made uneasy by allegations of incompetence and corruption, welcomed the plan and said Afghans increasingly trusted their security forces.
Europeannations which have contributed troops to the military effort againstthe Afghan Taliban insurgency said they would also proceed with phasedreductions.
In a prime-time televised appearance on Wednesday,Obama said he would withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the endof 2011, with a further 23,000 by the end of next summer. Remainingtroops would be steadily withdrawn after that.
He vowed thatthe United States - struggling to restore its global image, shore upthe economy and reduce unemployment at home - would exercise newrestraint with military power.
Europe to pull out gradually
France, Germany and Poland said they would proceed with a gradual drawdown.
FrenchPresident Nicolas Sarkozy, like Obama seeking re-electon next year,said in a statement that he would oversee a pullout "in a proportionalmanner and in a calendar comparable to the withdrawal of Americanreinforcements". France''s 4,000-strong contingent is the fourth largest in Afghanistan.
German Defence Minister Guido Westerwelle said his country, with 4,800 troopsin the increasingly violent north, hoped by the end of the year "to beable to reduce our own troop contingent for the first time."
The head of Poland''sNational Security Bureau, General Stanislaw Koziej, told TVN24television that Warsaw''s strategy "is similar to Obama''s as we willbegin reducing our presence this year and by 2014 withdraw entirely."
Poland has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.Spain will begin withdrawing its troops in 2012.