Obama sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Obama sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Barack Obama greets cadets after he spoke about the war in Afghanistan at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Tuesday. AP

"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow," Obama said Tuesday.

After more than two months of intense consultations with his war council, Obama outlined his new strategy for Afghanistan in a speech to grey-uniformed cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point in New York.
The plan is intended to reverse gains by the Taliban in recent years and the sharply deteriorating security environment.

The build-up is expected to be completed by the summer, when the US force will reach 98,000 troops. Obama said his July 2011 target to begin withdrawals will depend on "conditions on the ground" and is meant to pressure the Afghan government to act swiftly toward taking responsibility for the country.
"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 centres," he said.

Obama closely tied the conflict in Afghanistan with the fight in Pakistan against Islamist extremism and the Taliban, which finds refuge in ungoverned swathes of the neighbouring country. Obama said the US and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, second right, sits with, from right to left: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Gen. David Petraeus as they listen to President Barack Obama speak about the war in Afghanistan at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. AP Pakistan faced a "a common enemy" and pledged to strengthen ties between Washington and Islamabad.
"In recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism," he said.

The US will continue to assist the Pakistani military and help build a viable economy and democratic institutions in the country. He called the Afghan-Pakistani border the "epicentre of the violent extremism practised by Al-Qaeda".

Obama said he will urge NATO and other allies to likewise contribute more troops.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a NATO conference Friday in Brussels to address the issue, and a senior administration official hinted that NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen will announce an expanded NATO force.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already pledged an additional 500 troops to the fight and has suggested NATO could add another 5,000. The new forces will expand Britain's already second-largest contingent in the alliance to more than 10,000.

The US government has reportedly asked France for another 1,500 troops and Germany for another 2,000 troops.

"We must come together to end this war successfully," Obama said. "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."
Obama said that for the last several years Afghanistan has "moved backwards" as the Taliban movement has regained momentum. "The status quo is not sustainable," he said.

Obama warned recently re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his government must work to improve the country and warned that US support was conditioned on achieving results, especially at ending corruption.
"This effort must be based on performance," Obama said. "The days of providing a blank cheque are over."

Obama's buildup falls short of the additional 40,000 troops requested by the top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Most of the extra forces will be in combat roles, while the others will focus on training Afghan security forces.
Obama deflected the Republican opposition's criticism of a withdrawal timeframe, saying that placing a date on the mission will help pressure the Afghan government and the international effort to make progress and transition security responsibilities to Kabul.

"The absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government," he said. "It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan."

Since Monday, Obama has briefed numerous leaders about his plans, including Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Brown, French and Russian presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Dmitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Ministers Donald Tusk of Poland and Manmohan Singh of India, and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Describing Pak-Afghan border as the "epicentre of the violent extremism practised by al-Qaeda", the US President said, "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."
"The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al-Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them," he said.

Pakistani Taliban have targeted the country's nuclear installations on three occasions in the past and have threatened to lay their hands on the atomic arsenal, causing serious concerns in the West.
The troop increase will put a heavy strain on the US military, which maintains a force of more than 100,000 in Iraq and already has 68,000 in Afghanistan. The additional troops will take the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000 and will cost USD 30 billion for the first year alone.

Observing that this was not just America's war, Obama said since 9/11, al Qaeda's safe-havens have been the source of attacks against London, Amman and Bali.
He made it clear that pressure on al-Qaeda and extremists will be stepped up in coming months. "We must keep the pressure on al-Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region."
"Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," the President said.

And to meet that goal, he said, the US will deny al-Qaeda a safe haven and will reverse the Taliban's momentum and crush its ability to overthrow the government.
"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," he said justifying inclusion of Pakistan in his Afghan policy.

Stating that this was an international effort, Obama said he has asked that US commitment be joined by contributions from its allies.
"Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead," said Obama, the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, in his 35-minute long nationally televised speech.
"Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, 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," Obama said.
The US president said the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government must be strengthened so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.
"Taken together, these additional US and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," he said.
"Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul.
"But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country," Obama said.
Obama also issued a stern warning to Afghan President Hamid Karzai government, saying the days of blank cheques are over and Kabul will have to show progress not only in governance but also providing security to its own people.
"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank cheques are over," he said.
"We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people," Obama said.
Observing that the people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades, he said they have been confronted with occupation – by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes.
"So, I want the Afghan people to understand – America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country," Obama said.
"We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens," he said.

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