Obama announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
LALIT K JHA\PTI
Washington, Feb 13: US President Barack Obama today announced to bring 34,000 American troops back home from war-torn Afghanistan in the next one year as he warned North Korea and Iran to meet the international obligations on their controversial nuclear programmes or face firm action.
In an inspiring State of the Union Address - the first of his second term - Obama also came out with specific proposals to rejuvenate the country's fragile economy by boosting the middle class, creating jobs, fixing the finances, increasing minimum wages and comprehensive immigration reform to attract the best talent of the world.
"This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan," Obama said.
Obama's move will reduce by more than half the current force level of 66,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The US, NATO and Afghanistan agreed in Lisbon in 2010, and affirmed in Chicago last year, that Kabul will assume full responsibility for its security by the end of 2014, he said.
Obama termed North Korea's nuclear tests as "provocative" and vowed to take "firm action" against Pyongyang, a day after the reclusive Communist state conducted its third and most powerful nuclear explosion despite international sanctions.
"The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats," he said.
He also told Iranian leaders it was time to end the standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, saying the diplomatic option for Islamic republic is still open.
"The leaders of Iran must recognise that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon," he said.
"At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead," Obama said.
He also urged the Congress to increase the minimum wage.
"Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to USD 9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families," he added.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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