followed by the GOP response from Sen. Marco Rubio
TONIGHT AT 9 PM | 107.7 FM | 930 AM | WBEN.com
President Barack Obama will announce in his State of the Union address that 34,000 U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan within a year, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
That's about half the U.S. forces currently serving there, and marks the next phase in the administration's plans to formally finish the war by the end of 2014. The U.S. now has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 as recently as 2010.
The U.S. is still finalizing plans for the size and scope of its military presence after the war ends. The White House has said it would be open to leaving no troops in Afghanistan, though it's likely that a small presence will remain, in keeping with the Pentagon's preferences.
Obama won't announce troop numbers beyond 2014 in Tuesday's speech and has not yet made that decision, said the official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the troop drawdown ahead of the president.
Obama discussed the next phases of the drawdown with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a day-long meeting in Washington last month, the first meeting between the two leaders since Obama's re-election. The two leaders agreed to accelerate their timetable for putting Afghan forces in the lead combat role nationwide, moving that transition up from the summer to the spring.
Obama will announce the troop drawdown and the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan during a joint session of Congress that is otherwise expected to be dominated by the economy and other domestic issues.
Though Mr. Obama has given more speeches this year on his proposals to stem gun violence and overhaul immigration policy, the "core emphasis" of his speech tonight is the economy.You'll hear from the president a very clear call for the need to take action to help our economy grow and help it create jobs," said Carney.
That includes the showdown with Congress over the mandatory spending cuts due to take effect starting March 1.
The president will urge Congress "not to shoot the economy in the foot," said Carney, by agreeing to his plan to avert the across-the-board spending cuts which the White House portrays as mindless and severe.
The president will again make it clear he wants a "balanced" plan that calls for additional tax revenue from America's top earners.
"My message to Congress is this: let's keep working together to solve this problem," the president said Saturday in his weekly address.
But Republican leaders say Mr. Obama already got his tax hikes as part of the "fiscal cliff" package, and now needs to focus exclusively on reductions in spending.
"The economy is not in a worse place than it was before," said Carney, pointing to the progress made since Mr. Obama's first State of the Union Address. "We were in economic freefall."
He said the president will make the case that "we are at a moment when the economy is poised to continue to grow...to build on the job creation that we've achieved -- over 6.1 million jobs created by our businesses over the past 35 or 36 months."
Carney added the president will propose further steps to grow the economy in a way that makes the middle class more secure and helps those trying to climb the ladder into the middle class.
"That is absolutely going to be his focus in the second term as it was in the first term," said Carney.
The president will make clear he's not giving up on oft-stated plans to put more people to work repairing America's infrastructure. He'll also put forward a proposal calling for expanded opportunities for higher education.
Share Your Thoughts
or At The Bottom of this Page
And with victims of gun violence in the gallery, he'll make an impassioned pitch for a gun control law that would reinstate the ban on sales of assault weapons, end the manufacture of ammo clips that hold more than 10 rounds, and institute more thorough background checks on all gun buyers.
Though congressional approval of his agenda priorities is beyond reach, Mr. Obama wants to be seen standing firm on their behalf.
The official Republican response to the president will be delivered tonight by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., widely seen as a presidential candidate in 2016.
An even more critical response will come from Sen. Rand Paul., R-Ky., speaking for the the tea party wing of the GOP, whose supporters in Congress have successfully blocked many of Mr. Obama's objectives.