US may start Afghan withdrawal 'before' July 2011: Mullen
The gradual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan may begin "before the July 2011" start date set by Obama, if conditions allow, the top U.S. military officer said.
The gradual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan may begin "before the July 2011" start date set by President Barack Obama, if conditions allow, the top U.S. military officer said on Thursday.
"I believe we will transition as soon as they are in a position to take the lead," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. "And I think by and large, it will be district-by-district."
Critics have called Obama's timeline for the Afghan mission arbitrary, taking aim at his plans to start withdrawing U.S. forces and transferring the lead on security to Afghan forces in July 2011, just as he deploys 30,000 more U.S. troops there.
Mullen said any decision on bringing forward the transition would fall upon General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
"We are by no means with this approach waiting until July 2011. But that is a very strict date the president has set and one with which we will very strictly comply," Mullen said.
Asked whether the transition could start happening in just months, Mullen said: "Theoretically, we could. But that's up to the boss out there (McChrystal)."
Reuters Last Mod: 11 Aralık 2009, 08:24