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White House: Afghanistan withdrawal deadline firm

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The Obama administration has reaffirmed its promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by July 2011, distancing itself from recent Pentagon comments that the move could take longer.

"There's a firm date," said White House Chief of State Rahm Emanuel on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "The July [2011] date, as stated by the president, that's not moving, that's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date."

Mr. Emanuel's remarks were in contrast to comments by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who told a congressional committee last week that any withdrawal would be "based on conditions" and that "July 2011 is not the date where we race for the exits."

Mr. Emanuel said the White House and Pentagon positions are "not inconsistent" because both agree that "what will be determined [in July 2011], or going into that date, will be the scale and scope of the reduction.

"But there will be no doubt that [a withdrawal is] going to happen" in July 2011, the aide said.

Mr. Emanuel said the deadline has created a "sense of urgency" for the United States, its coalition allies, and Afghanistan's government and security forces to push toward greater stability in the country.

The president's aide added that the administration's "surge" of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan this year -- a deployment that is about two-thirds completed -- also has done much to improve security in the country.

"This is creating a window of opportunity for Afghanistan," Mr. Emanuel said. "We are now at that point in Afghanistan that, for the first time in . . . nine years they are actually meeting their police recruitment requirements, as well as their army recruitment requirements."

Mr. Emanuel also said the war in Afghanistan has lead to the elimination of about half of al Qaeda's forces in the country in the past 18 months.

"We're taking the pressure to al Qaeda; we're taking the pressure to Afghanistan," he said.

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