The Defense Department’s top policy official, Michele Flournoy, said President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop withdrawal over the 14 months is a continuation of a policy of troop surge he initiated in 2009.
In a primetime address Wednesday night, Obama announced that 33,000 U.S. troops, about the same number of troops committed there in the 2009 surge, will return by September 2012.
Of that, some 10,000 troops will return by the end of the year.
Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, told the House Armed Services Committee that Obama was “true to his word” in the announcement of the troop withdrawals, because even after the 33,000 service members return home, about 68,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan, Flournoy said.
“That’s more than twice the number as when President Obama took office,” she said. “Clearly, this is not a ‘rush to the exits’ that will jeopardize our security gains.”
Flournoy characterized the troop withdrawals as part of a “transition process,” that will ultimately allow Afghan security forces to stand up.
Mullen had acknowledged, though, that Obama’s decisions were “more aggressive and incur more risk,” than he was initially prepared to accept, he told the panel.