"As commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home," Obama said.
In a flurry of coordinated television interviews, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials said that any troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be slow and that Americans would only then be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces under Mr. Obama's new plan......"We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times," said Gen. James L. Jones, the president's national security adviser, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union." "We're going to be in the region for a long time."
"The absence of a timeframe for a transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government."
"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over."
During his recent inaugural address, Mr. Karzai said that Afghan forces would be able to take charge of securing Afghan cities within three years, and could take responsibility for the rest of the country within five years.
"Whether that is 15 or 20 years, we'll hope for accelerated economic development in Afghanistan."