Peter Hoskin

Obama draws down his forces

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It is as Matt Cavanagh predicted in his article for Coffee House, a few weeks ago. Barack Obama has decided to pull 10,000 of the 30,000 American "surge" troops out of Afghanistan this year. The remaining 20,000 will be outtathere by next summer. "Drawdown," is the word that the US President used in his address last night, and it is happening at quite a pace. He presented this approach as a victory, suggesting that America has already achieved most of its goals in the country, and that "the tide of war is receding". But there were one or two revealing notes of concession. "We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place," quoth Obama. And he nodded towards the fiscal cost of the war, as much as its human cost. "America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said.

As for David Cameron, this pushes him further towards the British drawdown he has been planning for months. But it also quickens a few of his immediate, political problems. Just as General David Petraeus is said to oppose the pace of Obama's troop reduction, so too are British generals wary of Cameron's. And then there is the US President's light emphasis on the cost of war to taxpayers, which could feed into the debate over here. The coalition government is expected to reveal today that the effort to oust Gaddafi has cost us £250 million so far, above many expectations. That's peanuts compared to the bill for Afghanistan, but it still might provoke a public that is turning against the Libya conflict anyway.