A day after he replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as commander of the war in Afghanistan, President Obama dismissed a suggestion that the change in command would affect his timetable for withdrawal of combat troops from the country.
At a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama answered a reporter's question on the timetable by saying that an assessment of the war's progress -- to be held in December, a year after Obama announced his 30,000-troop increase in Afghanistan -- will help determine the pace of withdrawal from the region.
"We are in the midpoint of implementing the strategy that we came up with last year," Obama said. "We did not say that, starting July 2011, suddenly there would be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan. We didn't say we should be switching off the lights or closing the door behind us," he added.
Obama also reiterated his support of Petraeus in his new role. "We will not miss a beat because of a change in command in the Afghan theater," he said. The two leaders' wide-ranging East Room press conference covered trade and economic issues as well -- with Obama expressing support for Russia's acceptance in the World Trade Organization and praising Medvedev's agreement to lift a ban on American poultry exports.
"Russia belongs in the WTO," Obama said. "It's good for Russia, America ,and the world economy." On poultry exports, Obama said, "Sometimes it's odd when you're sitting in historic meetings with your Russian counterpart to spend time talking about chicken," Obama said.
"But our ability to get resolved a trade dispute around poultry that is a multi-billion-dollar export for the United States was an indication of the seriousness with which President Medvedev and his team take all of these trade and commercial issues."
Obama also said that he found the initial signs "positive" after China's announcement that it will begin allowing its currency, the renminbi, to appreciate against the dollar.