Washington Extra – Fighting words

June 22, 2011

When President Barack Obama announced the 30,000 U.S. troop surge for Afghanistan in December 2009, he said: “It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”

Obama, president for less than a year, said those words at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was still trying to prove that he had what it took to be commander-in-chief.

A year-and-a-half later, it is now a different setting. Obama will announce his plan to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan at the White House, having proven his mettle when he gave the go-ahead for the daring and risky operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He is also a declared candidate for re-election facing a public most concerned about the economy and quite tired of war.

Watch to see whether tonight’s speech will take on a campaign tone or frame the decision as a result of victory. It may be neither. We’ll see at 8 p.m.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama to unveil plan for Afghanistan troop withdrawal

President Obama was set to unveil his plan to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan, a first step toward ending a decade-long war that is increasingly unpopular. Obama is expected to announce a plan that may include the withdrawal by year’s end of up to a third of the 30,000 ‘surge’ troops, possibly followed by the removal of the rest of those extra forces by the end of 2012. The announcement caps weeks of speculation about the future direction of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, nearly 10 years after September 11.

For more of this story by Missy Ryan, read here.

Democrats call for new spending in debt deal

Efforts in Congress to head off a debt default faced a new hurdle as Democratic leaders called for additional spending to boost the sluggish economy. Democrats’ demand for new stimulus spending is directly at odds with the efforts of negotiators, who are trying to find trillions of dollars in budget savings. Senate Democrats want the deal to include money for highway construction, a payroll tax cut and clean-energy subsidies to bring down the 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

For more of this story by Richard Cowan and Andy Sullivan, read here.

Fed cuts GDP forecast; no hint of more support

The Federal Reserve cut its forecasts for economic growth, but offered no hint of further monetary support, saying growth should pick up soon. It pinned a recent slowdown in growth and quickening of inflation partly on transitory factors, including higher commodity prices and supply chain disruptions from Japan’s devastating earthquake. It said the forces pushing up prices should dissipate, allowing inflation to subside to levels consistent with price stability, even as growth revives.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal and Glenn Somerville, read here.

US regulators likely lucked out on oil rigging case

Regulators, eager to send a tough message to high flying oil markets by bringing its biggest ever oil manipulation case to court, may have simply gotten lucky. The CFTC said in late May it was suing two well-known traders and two trading firms owned by Norwegian billionaire John Fredriksen for manipulating oil prices by buying and selling physical crude in Cushing, Oklahoma. One source familiar with how the CFTC conducts its surveillance said the agency would not have detected the alleged manipulative trading in its regular day-to-day practice. They likely discovered it through a tip, said the source.

For more of this analysis by Sarah N. Lynch and Christopher Doering, read here.

SEC expands private fund oversight

Regulators expanded their oversight of the roughly $2 trillion hedge fund industry as a divided SEC voted to require private fund advisers to register with the agency. The new rules, mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul law, would force advisers to hedge funds and private equity funds with more than $150 million under management to register with the agency.

For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch, read here.

Women can’t keep breast implants for life-FDA

Women who get silicone breast implants are likely to need additional surgery within 10 years to address complications such as rupturing of the device, health regulators said. The FDA will work to revise safety labels for silicone breast implants after reviewing data from several studies, which also showed the products had a small link to a rare form of cancer.

For more of this story by Anna Yukhananov, read here.

From elsewhere…

Obama treading carefully on gay issues in 2012 bid

President Obama has delivered important political victories for gays but is unlikely to push his support for gay rights much further before the 2012 election in case he alienates independent voters. Gay leaders will likely give Obama high marks at a fundraiser for pushing through issues like winning gays the right to serve openly in the military. But calls for the White House to back gay marriage and strengthen federal anti-discrimination protection will probably go unheeded as Obama treads carefully.

For more of this story, read here.

On the ground in Afghanistan, US drawdown is distant

Lieutenant Jonathan Austin’s men spent Wednesday as they expect to spend the best part of a year — patrolling grape orchards in the desert sun, scrambling over mud walls and scanning paths for homemade bombs. Word had not filtered down to their outpost in southern Afghanistan that President Obama had chosen that evening to announce his plans to bring home troops. For the men charged with the daily grind of fighting on the frontline of the near decade-long war in Afghanistan, the big decision will have little impact.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Bob Strong (U.S. soldiers walk past poppy field in Afghanistan)


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