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IN THE NEWS - Obama Defends US Foreign Policy

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014.

From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.

President Barack Obama this week announced plans for bringing America's longest war to what he called a responsible end. He said that this year the United States will finish its combat operations in Afghanistan, and give Afghan forces control of the country's security. Mr. Obama said that after 2014, 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan. But he said they all could be withdrawn if Afghan leaders do not sign a joint security agreement.

Under the president's plan, U.S. forces will be out of the country by the time he leaves office in 2017. The only soldiers left will guard the embassy and diplomats. That would be similar to the situation in Iraq, where Mr. Obama withdrew troops in 2011.

On Wednesday, the president spoke to the men and women finishing study programs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He told them that, "you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."

President Obama used the speech to answer critics of his foreign policy. He said the United States is the most "indispensible" nation in the world. But he warned against new military interventions.

Critics have called Mr. Obama's foreign policy unclear and weak. They point to his decision not to follow up on threats to attack Syria when it used chemical weapons. They also have criticized his failure to stop Russia from interfering in Ukraine.

In his speech, Mr. Obama said that, "the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism."

"First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: the United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it."

Mr. Obama called for a new $5 billion plan to help Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Mali fight terrorists. He also said the U.S. would continue drone strikes against terrorists and support for Syrian opposition groups.

One of Mr. Obama's critics is Arizona Senator John McCain. Mr. McCain says the United States should be arming Syrian rebels. He also is critical of Mr. Obama's plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The senator spoke on Phoenix radio station KFYI, The Barry Young Show.

"We're now seeing a replay of Iraq in Afghanistan, and one can only question whether this whole basis was that he [Obama] would be able to say at the end of his term that the troops are out of both countries….But the first thing the United States of America needs to regain is its credibility."

It is in Congress where Mr. Obama faces much of the criticism over his foreign policy. Michael O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution. He says the president's decision to avoid military action in Syria and Ukraine is probably what most Americans wanted. Studies have shown that Americans are tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and do not support more military adventures.

"…you add up the whole picture, it starts to look a little weak. And then you are open to the charge that foreign leaders have figured out that you do not want to do much and they're exploiting the window of opportunity, which is, of course, the charge being made about why (Russian President Vladimir) Putin got so aggressive on the Crimea."

And that's In The News, from VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.

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