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Obama debates between gradual and sudden withdrawal

by Adam Russett on June 21, 2011

The U.S. has been involved in Afghanistan since shortly after September 11, 2001, when the Taliban were said to have harbored members of Al-Qaeda who engineered the terrorist attacks. Now, a decade later, President Obama may be getting ready to prepare the withdrawal plan that he promised on his road to the Presidency. The announcement is highly anticipated and should given on Wednesday night.

The proposal won't come without obstacles, however, as there is a strong disagreement among party members and military leaders on how to most effectively start pulling troops from the country. One of the major concerns is that if the withdrawal is too rapid, the surge against extremists could be weakened significantly.

"That would be drawing down people before the job is finished, particularly in eastern Afghanistan," Senator John McCain said, Fox News reports. "We have a lot of problems in Afghanistan, but the surge is working in southern Afghanistan and it can in the eastern part."

McCain hasn't advocated for a timetable for the withdrawal at all, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates has previously stated his preference for a very gradual one. Another concern is that fighting usually increases during the hotter months of the year, so any draw-down in the summer could leave the military vulnerable.

Still, a bipartisan group of senators recently sent a letter to the President calling for a withdrawal that was both soon and significant.

"Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops," they wrote. "The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits."

The current deadline is July 2011, when some analysts believe thousands of troops could be withdrawn, according to PBS

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