White House press secretary Jay Carney on Sunday said the United States would transfer security to Afghan troops by the end of 2014 and that recent statements from President Obama did not mean that U.S. troops would be out of the country by that date.
Carney’s remarks came after President Obama said on Saturday that he had a “specific plan to bring our troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.”
“We are in the process of doing that right now," Obama had said at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa.
“This is a NATO-endorsed strategy that foresees full transition to Afghan security lead in Afghanistan by 2014,” Carney told a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Toledo, Ohio, where the president will hold a campaign rally tomorrow. “That is a NATO policy that has been put in place for quite some time now. And part of that is drawing down our forces.”
“Everyone understands what the president’s policy is, which is a full transition to Afghan security lead by 2014,” said Carney. “We have been abundantly clear about the stages of the implementation of that policy. And as in Iraq, that means that while not all U.S. troops will have withdrawn necessarily by then, the Afghan Security Forces will be in full security transition, I mean, will be in full security lead, and U.S. forces will continue to be drawn down.”
The United States is set to hand over responsibility for security to local Afghans by 2014, and efforts are under way to draw down U.S. forces, but the president has not specified a date for the withdrawal of all American troops from the country.
The effort to handover security to Afghans, however, has been hampered by a spike in attacks by local forces supposed to be working with American and NATO personnel.
On Sunday, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan on Sunday announced they would suspend training new recruits to the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and focus their attention on vetting those already in the force.
Reports say at least 45 NATO soldiers have been killed by Afghan counterparts this year in these types of attacks, called “green-on-blue."
Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have pushed Afghan leaders to take steps to prevent such attacks and said the U.S. was committed to training local forces and transferring security.
The drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq are also being touted as a foreign policy accomplishment by the president’s campaign.
National security issues have traditionally been a strong point for Republican presidential candidates, but Democrats say Obama’s decision to authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gives him the upper hand this election.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the administration’s decision to stick to the Afghan timetable, saying the White House has announced an exit strategy before completing the mission.