WASHINTON - President Obama will meet with his national security team Monday to discuss the war in Afghanistan, less than a month before he announces if and how he will abide by his pledge to start the drawdown of troops there this July.
The session at the White House is a monthly occurrence. But this month’s gathering comes as the president is facing pressure on how to proceed in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has had troops for almost ten years.
A growing //822coalition that includes mainly Democrats but also some Republicans in Congress is calling for a sizable withdrawal of the more than 100,000 troops there.
They argue that the U.S. has largely accomplished its goals in Afghanistan and should shift to a support role. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, traveling this weekend in Afghanistan in a kind of farewell tour before he leaves the Pentagon, said he favors a “modest” drawdown. Defense Secretary said in Afghanistan Saturday that a "modest" number of troops would likely be pulled out in July and argued for maintaining pressure on the insurgents to force them to the negotiating table -- possibly by the end of the year
Public support for the war in Afghanistan, once solid, has waned. A 2 last month by the Associated Press showed 59 percent of Americans oppose the war.
The decision on the number of troops has limited political impact for Obama, as polls show voters much more focused on the economy and the debate on the national debt than foreign policy issues.
But Obama has made winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a centerpiece of his early campaign reelection speeches, arguing that his policies in both countries are part of a series of major accomplishments of his administration. And reducing troops in Afghanistan could ease the minds of liberals who are wary of the U.S. role in the recent NATO-led intervention in Libya. (Agencies)