WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offered differing visions of the planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Gates predicted that only a small number of U.S. forces will come home from Afghanistan when a presidentially mandated withdrawal begins a year from now.
Gates reaffirmed that a withdrawal will begin in July 2011 but said he thinks the initial pullout will be modest, and that a large number of U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan. "July 2011 is not the end. It is the beginning of a transition," Gates said. "Drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers." The pace of the withdrawal would pick up as security conditions improve.
Last month, Vice-President Joe Biden also cautioned that the number of troops withdrawing from Afghanistan "could be as few as a couple of thousand troops."
Pelosi pushed back against that prediction on Sunday. "Well, I hope it is more than that," the Speaker said. "I know it's not going to be turn out the lights and let's all go home on one day. But I do think the American people expect it to be somewhere between that and a few thousand troops."
The U.S. will have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this summer.