Obama Outlines Afghanistan Withdrawal Timeline


President Obama today repeated his pledge to start the process of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July, and expressed confidence that the Afghans will be able to take responsibility for their security in 2014.

Whether all U.S. troops can be withdrawn in 2014 remains to be seen, Obama added, saying it depends on how well things are going against Taliban insurgents.

"I'll make that determination when I get there," Obama said at a news conference after a NATO summit.

The president also defended aggressive airport security pat-downs during the news conference. He said they are necessary to protect passengers from terrorists who try to hide explosives on their bodies, such as the "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up a plane last Christmas.

On another topic, Obama again urged Senate Republicans to ratify a proposed arms reduction treaty with Russia.

In meetings earlier today, Obama and NATO agreed to begin transferring security responsibility to Afghanistan next year, a project to be completed in 2014.

Obama also met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who has been critical of U.S. and NATO military actions.

The U.S. has to be sensitive to Karzai's concerns, Obama said. But Karzai also has to respect the concerns of the U.S. and its allies, given the lives that have been lost and the millions that have been spent in the Afghanistan war.