23 Jun 2011

US to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan

10:24 pm on 23 June 2011

President Barack Obama has announced the United States will begin removing 10,000 troops from Afghanistan in July to bring home a total of 33,000 by the middle of next year.

In a televised address from the White House on Wednesday, Mr Obama said the US will help strengthen the Afghan government and engage all participants, including the Taliban, CNN reports.

Mr Obama says the US will build a partnership with Afghanistan that will continue to deal with terrorism, changing its mission from combat to support.

He says the tide of war with Afghanistan is receding and after the initial reduction, the US will continue to pull out troops at a steady pace as Afghan security forces take over by 2014.

The US will also work with Pakistan in its efforts to deal with terrorists, he says.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has welcomed the announcement while France announced the phased withdrawal of its 4000 soldiers in Afghanistan, hours after Mr Obama's announcement.

NZ commitments unchanged

Defence Force figures for early June show nearly 200 New Zealand troops in Afghanistan, including 38 SAS soldiers and support staff.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says Mr Obama's plans will not affect New Zealand's Defence Force commitments.

Dr Mapp says New Zealand is sticking to its commitment for SAS members to be in Afghanistan until March next year.

He says New Zealand defence staff who are in Bamiyan helping with the security transition are committed for another two years.

"We expect to basically hand over responsibility in 2014, but we will be looking at opportunities if we can reduce ahead of that, but it will be based on the actual security conditions."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia is committed to staying in Afghanistan until 2014, and is not reducing its troop numbers.