THE WHITE HOUSE -- Citing the U.S. military success and an ailing economy at home, President Obama is ready to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. But the move could come at a price.
Nearly a decade after the war began, the president says Americans can take comfort knowing it is winding down.
"We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11," Obama said in an address to the nation Wednesday night.
American military personnel will start leaving Afghanistan next month, and by the end of the year, 10,000 troops will be home.
Next summer, 23,000 more will also return, leaving nearly 70,000 in the war zone. Obama says they will also exit at a "steady pace."
For the president, the decision comes at a critical time as he is seeking reelection.
"Jacob, I'm hoping you have something in your 2012 folder that will work here," Obama was overheard saying at a political rally.
Lawmakers from both parties want U.S. troops brought home and public support is sinking fast.
A recent Associated Press poll showed 80 percent of Americans approve withdrawing combat troops and ending U.S. combat operations by 2014.
"If the Afghans don't do the fighting then it shouldn't be done. I mean, we cannot be there fighting for the Afghans," said Arturo Munoz, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation.
A 30-year veteran of the CIA, Munoz says the U.S. should focus on training the Afghan army, specifically special forces to work with local tribal defense forces.
"The bottom line is we're leaving. And who's staying? The tribes. That is Afghanistan. So either you work with what is there or you don't," he explained.
But other experts, including military leaders, argue combat operations need more time.
"So really this is not the time to take our foot off the gas. This is time to push our advantage. Take advantage of the gains that we have seen both in terms of bin Laden's killing as well as the gains on the battlefield in southern Afghanistan that we've seen over the last 10 months," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
However, the president is weighing other factors, including a ballooning deficit, deepening debt and Americans asking how the government can spend billions on a war overseas while so many citizens are suffering at home.
"Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource -- our people," Obama said.
Curtis argues there's more at stake than just the current military operation.
"If we draw back too quickly and we leave ourself in a vulnerable position or, God forbid, are even struck by terrorists again, then we'll be worse off economically and it will be even more costly," she said.
Since the war began, at least 1,522 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the president visits troops at Fort Drum in New York -- the home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division -- which has served multiple tours in Afghanistan.
Watch below for President Obama's entire speech on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.