By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama will usher in a "real drawdown" of U.S. forces from Afghanistan starting in July, but said no decision was imminent on how many troops would come home or how fast.
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney described Obama's upcoming decision as important but narrow - a long-promised withdrawal in July based on local conditions, but not a re-opening of the war strategy that Obama announced in December 2009 and affirmed last winter. "There is not an enormous debate about this," Carney told reporters.
Obama is under pressure on Afghanistan as public support for the war remains low, congressional pressure for a faster exit mounts and defense officials urge him not to pull troops home too fast for risk of undermining tenuous security gains or influencing allies to remove their own troops with haste.
The president pledged to begin a July 2011 withdrawal when he ordered in 30,000 more troops in December 2009.
As planned, all foreign combat troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"There have been no decisions made," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said about the pace of the Afghanistan troop drawdown, speaking at a news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe at the State Department.
Obama is awaiting recommendations from his military commanders about how to put in place the July directive. Carney said it will include options but he would not get specific.
The president and his war advisers met for two hours to review a long, costly war launched after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America. The killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in an American raid in Pakistan last month has hastened calls by many in Congress to bring an end to the war.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates took part in Obama's security meeting by video feed from Afghanistan, where over the weekend he said that a "modest" drawdown in July seemed advised based on the improving capacity of Afghan forces to defend their own country.
The president, however, is on record as saying the drawdown in July will be "significant."
"People will say ... this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture," Obama said in April.
There are now 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan - three times the total when Obama took office in January 2009.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)