President Obama will outline his plans for starting to get American troops out of Afghanistan in a speech to the nation tomorrow night, and officials tell the Los Angeles Times that the magic number for 2011 will be 10,000. That's more than what many were hoping to hear: Robert Gates, ahead of his retirement at the end of the month, has called for a conservative withdrawal, and the Pentagon favors withdrawing just 3,000 to 4,000 troops this year.
The officials were careful to note that Obama is still "finalizing" his decision, but expect him to announce that the US has made great strides in damaging al-Qaeda's ability to attack the US, giving him the chance to begin bringing troops home. Budget woes and input from White House aides who favor a steep withdrawal were also factors, notes the LAT. Removing all the surge troops would still leave 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, more than twice as many as when Obama took office. In tomorrow night's speech, the president is also expected to outline plans for putting Afghans in charge of their own security by 2014, notes the AP.