U.S. will be out of Afghanistan by 2017 -White House

Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:33pm GMT

By Ross Colvin and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will not be in Afghanistan eight years from now, the White House said on Wednesday, as President Barack Obama prepared to explain to Americans next week why he is expanding the war effort.

After months of deliberation and fending off Republican charges that he was dithering on Afghanistan while violence there surged, Obama will address the nation on Tuesday on the way forward in the costly and unpopular eight-year war.

He is expected to announce he is sending about 30,000 more troops as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy that will place greater emphasis on accelerating the training of Afghan security forces so that U.S. soldiers can eventually withdraw.

It appears highly unlikely Obama will offer a specific troop withdrawal timetable, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would stress that the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was not open-ended.

"We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We are not going to be there another eight or nine years," Gibbs told reporters. "Our time there will be limited and that is important for people to understand," he said.

He said Obama would use his prime-time televised speech to stress the "sheer cost" of the war, explain to Americans why their military was still in Afghanistan, and press Afghan President Hamid Karzai to improve governance after being re-elected in a fraud-tainted vote in August.

"The American people are going to want to know why we are here, they are going to want to know what our interests are," Gibbs said.

The White House has estimated it will cost $1 million per year for each additional soldier sent to Afghanistan. With the U.S. deficit hitting $1.4 trillion and fuelling Americans' concerns about high government spending, sending more troops to Afghanistan could be a politically risky move for Obama.   Continued...

<p>A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>
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