President Obama is set to announce tonight the beginning of the end of the longest war in American history -- the decade-long Afghanistan conflict that came after Al Qaeda struck on Sept. 11, 2001.
Obama is expected to announce troop withdrawals of at least 5,000 personnel at first, and another 5,000 in coming months. By the end of next year, most, if not all of the 30,000 troops representing the surge force Obama sent to Afghanistan will pull out, leaving about 70,000 troops there.
The White House denied reports last night that Obama was still deliberating over the number of troops he plans to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan. "No, (Obama) has made the decision," a senior administration official said last night.
The overseer of the troop drawdown will be CIA director Leon Panetta, who was confirmed in a unanimous vote yesterday in the Senate to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Panetta will take over the top Pentagon post in a couple of weeks.
The war has become hugely unpopular with the American people because of its cost in lives and taxpayer dollars at a time when the Treasury is tapped out, polls repeatedly show.
At least 1,522 members of the U.S. armed forces have died and another 12,002 have been wounded in Afghanistan.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the taxpayers at least $1.3 trillion. The U.S will spend $120 billion in Afghanistan alone this year.
The polls also show many Americans believe the war against the Taliban is not making them any safer at home, especially since Al Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden was killed this spring by the 20-man SEAL Team Six in Pakistan.
Since President George W. Bush refused to raise taxes to pay for the wars, their costs are blamed for sending the U.S. budget deficit through the roof, decimating the $127 billion surplus President Bill Clinton left when he exited the White House.
The U.S. has a $1.4 trillion deficit and $14.3 trillion national debt.
The war deficit combined with Bush's laissez-faire approach to Wall Street and the banking industry led to the global economic crisis of 2008, which Obama inherited. The American taxpayers were then forced to pay for a massive socialist program to bail out Wall Street and the banks.
At the outset, Washington and most of America was gung-ho for the war, but along with most people in the country, now mayors and even many formerly hawkish Republican federal lawmakers have turned on the wars because of its costs.
The days of Dick Cheney quacking and Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer standing at the podium of the White House briefing room eviscerating the patriotism of anyone who questioned the beat of the war drums in Washington are left to the documentarians and historians to reflect upon.