ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Beginning to wind down a long and devastating war, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night he was pulling home 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next summer, withdrawing the “surge” of forces he had sent to rescue a flailing effort.
Said Obama to a country eager for an exit: “The tide of war is receding.”
A total of 10,000 troops will leave the war zone by the end of this year – fulfilling Obama’s promise for a withdrawal starting next month – and more than 20,000 additional forces will leave by the summer of 2012, shortly before the president will go before voters in search of a second term.
Still, almost 70,000 U.S. troops will remain in an unstable country, fighting in a war bound to see more Americans killed. Obama said they will leave at a steady pace, but the U.S. combat mission is not expected to end until December 2014 — and even then, a sizable and enduring contingent may remain in a different role.
Obama’s announcement from the White House came in a perilous political environment, with Americans soured on the war and the economy, many members of Congress pushing him to get troops home even faster, and his Republican presidential rivals taking shots at his leadership at every chance.
Plenty of disgruntled Democrats also took Obama to task, however politely, for not withdrawing more troops more quickly.
“I am glad this war is ending, but it’s ending at far too slow a pace,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Added the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California: “We will continue to press for a better outcome.”
At least 1,500 members of the U.S. military have died and 12,000 have been wounded since the war began in late 2001. The financial cost of the war has passed $440 billion and is on the rise, jumping to $120 billion a year. Those costs have risen in importance as a divided U.S. government struggles to contain its soaring debt.
At the Lozano home in Arlington, a yellow ribbon can be seen from blocks away. It’s wrapped around a tree in the front yard.
“I always put it up until he gets home and then I take it off,” says Jesus Lozano.
It’s a daily reminder of their son Sgt. Javier Lozano’s service.
“I’m really proud of him,” says Jesus, which his wife Yolanda echoes.
As President Obama spoke Wednesday night about the future of troops in Afghanistan the Lozanos hung on to every word. Sgt. Lozano will be home from Afghanistan in a few weeks.
It will be after two tours there and for every day he’s been overseas his parents have paid a price at home.
“You go through hell everyday especially when you see someone brought home that didn’t make it hits you like it’s yours,” says Yolanda Lozano.
The family thinks the decision to withdraw troops is long overdue. They say that yellow ribbon will come down when their son is home.
“I’m going to hug and ain’t going to let him go,” said Jesus.