President Obama will announce tonight that he's pulling 10,000 American soldiers out of Afghanistan this year, and another 20,000 by the end of next summer, The New York Times' Helene Cooper and Mark Landler report. The drawdown--which totals the entire 2009 surge of troops--is faster than what military commanders advised. But, the Times writes, it reflects "mounting political and economic pressures at home, as the president faces relentless budget pressures and an increasingly restive Congress and American public."
The Times presents the decision with this scorecard: Biden 1, Petraeus 0. Vice President Joe Biden has pushed for the Afghan mission to be scaled back, while Gen. David Petraeus insists on a troop-heavy counterinsurgency policy. Petraeus, who will soon head the CIA, would not sign on to the plan. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, if "reluctantly."
Though drones strikes have "crippled" al Qaeda in the region, the Times reports, "the withdrawal of the entire surge force by the end of next summer--before the fighting season ends in Afghanistan--would change the way the United States wages war in Afghanistan, analysts said, suggesting that the administration may have concluded it can no longer achieve its grandest ambitions for the nearly-decade-long military campaign there."