Panetta Slips Up on Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan
By Adam Entous
KABUL, Afghanistan āĀ Leon Panetta, on his first day here as U.S. defense secretary, made what appeared to be his first big policy announcement: The U.S. would keep 70,000 troops in the country until the end of 2014, when the Afghans are scheduled to assume full responsibility for security.
It turned out to be his first major public gaffe in his new job.
āWeāre going to have 70,000 there through 2014, and obviously, as we get to 2014, weāll develop a plan as to how we reduce that force at that time,ā Mr. Panetta said. āFor at least the next two years weāre going to have a pretty significant force in place to try to deal with the challenges we face.ā
PresidentĀ Barack Obama last month ordered the military to pull out 33,000 āsurgeā troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer, leaving nearly 70,000 troops in place. After the summer of 2012 drawdown, Mr. Obama said, U.S. troops would continue leaving Afghanistan at āa steady paceā as Afghan security forces assume more control.
Officials traveling with Mr. Panetta said the defense secretary, who flew to Kabul overnight and held meetings late into the night with Mr. Karzai and other officials, misspoke.
Douglas Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said drawdown plans through 2014 have yet to be developed.
āHe was not here making new policy. He was not here differing with the president. He was not here making news on numbers at all,ā Mr. Wilson said.
Mr. Wilson said Mr. Panetta intended to make the point that the drawdown would not be āprecipitous.ā
- Panetta Slips Up on Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan (blogs.wsj.com)
- U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta in Iraq (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- To Kabul – Panetta in Afghan visit (politico.com)
- Panetta Lands in Afghanistan (abcnews.go.com)
- Al-Qaeda Defeat ‘Within Reach,’ Panetta Says on Kabul Visit (businessweek.com)
- Defense Secretary: US within reach of defeating al-Qaida (thenewstribune.com)
- Panetta: U.S. Within Reach of Defeating al Qaeda (thewesternexperience.com)
- Panetta: US within reach of defeating Al Qaeda (boston.com)
- Karzai confirms talks with Taliban (ikners.com)
- New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on first visit to Afghanistan, says defeat of al-Qaida is ‘within reach’ – NYT (nytimes.com)