Details of the President’s Afghanistan strategy are emerging ahead of his primetime speech at West Point tonight:
President Barack Obama plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan over six months, an accelerated timetable – with an endgame built in – that would have the first Marines there as early as Christmas, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
With the full complement of new troops expected to be in Afghanistan by next summer, the heightened pace of Obama’s military deployment in the 8-year-old war appears to mimic the 2007 troop surge in Iraq, a 20,000-strong force addition under former President George W. Bush. Similar in strategy to that mission, Obama’s Afghan surge aims to reverse gains by Taliban insurgents and to secure population centers in the volatile south and east parts of the country.
By laying out a rough timeframe and some dates for when the main U.S. military mission would end, as well as emphasizing stepped-up training for Afghan forces, the president was acknowledging the increasingly divided public opinion over continued American participation in the stalemated war.
“We want to – as quickly as possible – transition the security of the Afghan people over to those national security forces in Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “This can’t be nation-building. It can’t be an open-ended forever commitment.”
In his speech and in meetings overseas in the coming days, Obama also will ask NATO allies to contribute more – between 5,000 and 10,000 new troops – to the separate international force in Afghanistan, diplomats said.
I’m not sure if this war can be won; I’m not sure if 8 years of neglect by the Bush administration can be reversed and overcome.
But I know the stakes are high. 9/11 happened in part because Afghanistan was an unfettered hotbed of extremism; such an environment cannot be allowed to develop there again. And I know that an unstable Afghanistan also destabilizes nuclear Pakistan, though perhaps the war is making that situation worse, not better.
I’m glad the President took his duty seriously, took his time and considered all of his options before devising his strategy. I certainly hope Obama, his administration and our military commanders know what they’re doing and can do it–as the Bush administration taught us, simply dumping troops into a country and hoping for the best isn’t enough.
The fact that the President insisted on having a timetable for withdrawal in his plan is certainly heartening. Our involvement in Afghanistan needs to be conditional–we have to have achievable goals and our increased presence in Afghanistan has to start moving us closer to those goals.
Only time will tell whether or not escalation does us any good. I’m hoping that some semblance of victory can be achieved in Afghanistan–whatever ‘victory’ may mean–but I fear that 8 years of neglect have made the Afghanistan war unwinnable.