Washington (CNN) – President Obama’s national security adviser said Sunday that the administration’s announced date to begin the pull out of additional troops ordered by the president is a “glide slope” and a “ramp” to reducing forces, and not a “cliff” that would induce a precipitous decline in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“The president’s decision on 2011 has more do with a transition than anything else,” National Security Adviser James Jones said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Asked whether the White House was committed to removing troops even if the Afghan government and Afghan security forces weren’t fully capable by mid-2011, Jones explained that the date “is not a cliff, it’s a glide slope.”
“Certainly, the president has also said that we’re not leaving Afghanistan. We are here to see that Afghanistan succeeds. We can’t want this more than the Afghans do. If [Afghan] President Karzai leads his nation the way we think he can, [then] this is a very achievable objective.”
“2011 is not a cliff, it’s a ramp,” Jones reiterated when asked to respond to criticism that the president’s new strategy is flawed because it includes a withdrawal date, critical information for those who would do harm to U.S. interests in and around Afghanistan.
“Where’s the end of the ramp?” CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Jones.
“Well, the end of the ramp will be predicated on exactly how much progress we’re making with regard to” the capability of the Afghan security forces and Afghan government, Jones replied.
Jones resisted when asked to give a rough target date for withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“We have strategic interests in South Asia,” Jones said, “that should not be measured in terms of finite times. We’re going to be in the region for a long time. . . . We want this relationship to be, as we have with all struggling democracies, we want to be helpful.”
Jones’ comments Sunday about the administration’s announced date of July 2011 to begin to draw down additional forces in Afghanistan was a reaction to recent comments by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
In a taped, exclusive interview, set to air Sunday afternoon on CNN’s Amanpour, Karzai said his government would try to build up its security forces and take control of the country as soon as possible.
“But the international community must have also the patience with us and the realization of the realities in Afghanistan,” Karzai also told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “If it takes longer, then they must be with us.”
During the interview with Amanpour, Karzai also estimated that Afghans should be capable of taking control of their country in five years, or sometime in 2014.
Related video: Karzai explains his five year estimate