President Barack Obama said that he plans to send another 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama said that this surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan will begin to ebb in July 2011 when U.S. and NATO forces and allies begin turning over security responsibility to Afghan security forces. “This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al-Qaida can operate with impunity,” Obama said.
“The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the president has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task,” Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in a published statement. “The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the president’s address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.”
The 30,000 troops and equipment are expected to be in Afghanistan in the first half of 2010, Obama said. White House officials speaking on background earlier today said this will entail at least two or three Army brigade combat teams, and many soldiers and Marines to train the Afghan security forces. Air Force and Navy personnel also will be called on to support this effort.
The added troops will bring the total number of U.S. forces to nearly 100,000, in addition to a complement of roughly 42,000 allied troops. McChrystal said the 42 other nations contributing forces will benefit from a strengthened U.S. commitment.
A military counterinsurgency effort aimed at protecting the Afghan people is only one part of the strategy, the president said. The second is a civilian surge that reinforces positive actions, and the third is an effective partnership with Pakistan.
Obama is also expected to ask for international military contributions. Some nations Britain and Australia for example already have provided additional troops, and he expects more nations will come forward soon.
Obama used the experiences in Iraq as a yardstick. Just as in Iraq, additional forces will provide the time and security needed to train local forces, thus accelerating a handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces beginning in July 2011.
“Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground,” he said.
The civilian strategy will entail working with allies, international agencies and the Afghan people “to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security,’ he said.
Aid to Afghanistan must be based on performance, the president said. “The days of providing a blank check are over,” he said.
Obama said Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message. The United States will support Afghan ministries, governors and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people, he added.
“We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable,” he said. “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 stressed that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan or subjugating its people.
“We will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron,” he said.
Obama stressed that the United States will not run out on Pakistan. “We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country,” he said. “But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.”
“Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust,” Obama said. “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear.” The United States also will provide resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development.