President Barack Obama is ordering 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan beginning in December and ending in the summer of 2010 because “the status quo is not acceptable” and it is within the United States’ “vital national interest” to take this step “to break Taliban momentum” and deny al-Qaeda a safe haven.
Speaking at the United States Military Academy at West Point Dec. 1, he said, “Afghanistan is not lost” nor “is [its government] in imminent threat of being overthrown” from the growing Taliban insurgency. He added the increase “will bring this war to a successful conclusion.”
At the same time, Obama said that the United States would begin to withdraw forces from Afghanistan in July 2011. “Our troop commitment to Afghanistan cannot be open-ended.”
In announcing his second major troop increase to Afghanistan in his presidency, this was the first time Obama directly tied the Taliban, centered in Afghanistan and the Pashtun regions of Pakistan, of 2009 to today’s al-Qaeda. “They both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government.”
Adding, “We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.”
To the Afghan people, he said, “We have no interest in occupying your country.”
He added that after eight years of war “America is your partner and not your patron.” To the American public, he said the time frame “sets goals” that are achievable “at a reasonable cost.”
The cost has been put between $25 billion and $30 billion.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected a request for an emergency spending bill to cover the costs of a larger military presence and expanded operations in Afghanistan.
"The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 the fastest pace possible so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers," Obama said.
About 9,000 marines are expected to be the first forces in, and they will likely go to Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s.
The increased troops, Obama said, "will increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans."
About 5,000 members of the new forces would be set aside to train the Afghan army and national police.
The increase in American forces to about 100,000 soldiers and marines and possibly 5,000 more forces from allies in 43 nations, bringing their numbers to about 50,000, would also be able to better confront the continuing threat from al-Qaeda operating from Pakistan. “The danger will only grow if we do not keep pressure on al-Qaeda.”
Adding, "We must come together to end this war successfully. For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility. What's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced before the speech that his country would be sending an additional 500 soldiers to Afghanistan.
Adding, “The stakes are even higher in Pakistan” because it has nuclear weapons. “We have every reason to believe that [al-Qaeda] would use them.”
The fortunes of the United States and Pakistan “are inextricably linked,” he said in outlining a strategy for both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Pakistan and America share a common enemy.”
Obama said differences between the situation in southwest Asia and Vietnam went beyond the number of allies supporting the United States because it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Taliban is “not the broad-based insurgency” America faced in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s.
While saying the Americans and its allies will continue to train and assist Afghan police and its army, Obama warned the government of Hamid Karzai, the “days of the blank check are over” and that his government needed to take steps to end corruption and extend its governance beyond Kabul, the capital.
Obama recognized the growing disillusionment with the war in Afghanistan and Americans’ concern about rebuilding the economy. “It’s easy to forget that when this war began we were united.”
He added, "It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak."
In his speech, Obama said that at no time during his administration’s three-month review of future strategy in Afghanistan was he asked to provide additional forces before the beginning 2010.