December 1, 2009: President Obama’s Address Unveils New Afghanistan War Strategy


President Obama told the American people that 30,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan by the first part of 2010, “the fastest pace possible.”
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times President Obama said that 30,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan by the first part of 2010, “the fastest pace possible.”


  • FACT CHECK: Obama overlooks some tough realities: President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday night did not always match the reality on the ground in Afghanistan. The president raised expectations that may be hard to meet when he told Americans his troop increase in Afghanistan will accelerate the training of that country’s own forces and be accompanied by more help from allies. A look at some of his claims and how they compare with the facts… – AP, 12-1-09


  • Qualified Support From G.O.P.; Skepticism From Democrats: Congressional Republicans offered qualified support Tuesday for President Obama’s proposed troop increase in Afghanistan but several senior Democrats took sharp exception to the president’s plan, illustrating the deep divide in the party over the conflict…. – NYT, 12-2-09
  • Obama Adds Troops, but Maps Exit Plan: President Obama announced Tuesday that he would speed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in coming months, but he vowed to start bringing American forces home in the middle of 2011. He said that the United States could not afford an open-ended commitment and that it was time for Afghans to take more responsibility for their country…. – NYT, 12-1-09
  • Obama’s Afghanistan speech: five key points In President Obama’s Afghanistan speech, he announced Tuesday night that he will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. But he’s already decided to start bringing them back by mid-2011: President Obama’s Afghanistan speech announced a new, historic chapter for the mission there, announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in the “epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda” but also promising to begin withdrawing those forces within 18 months. The surge of forces will bring the total American commitment to nearly 100,000. It will be composed of several combat brigades, new trainers and support troops and will be deployed at “the fastest pace possible” to be on the ground and fighting by summer, an onerous task for a military deploying forces to a landlocked country with a crude infrastructure. The much-anticipated formal announcement of a policy in Afghanistan punctuates three months of soul-searching within the administration and, regardless of the outcome, represents an historical turning point for Afghanistan and the Obama administration…. – CS Monitor, 12-2-09
  • Analyzing Obama’s Afghan Speech: President Obama outlined his reasons for increasing troops in Afghanistan, but promised the war would not go on without end…. – NYT, 12-1-09
  • Obama orders 30,000-troop boost in Afghanistan: Declaring “our security is at stake,” President Barack Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the long war in Afghanistan on Tuesday night, nearly tripling the force he inherited but promising an impatient public to begin withdrawal in 18 months. The buildup will begin almost immediately — the first Marines will be in place by Christmas — and will cost $30 billion for the first year alone. In a prime-time speech at the U.S. Military Academy, the president told the nation his new policy was designed to “bring this war to a successful conclusion,” though he made no mention of defeating Taliban insurgents or capturing al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden…. – AP, 12-1-09
  • Obama’s Afghan War Compromise Doesn’t Quell Strategy Debate By offering something to all sides in the debate, Obama may have left all sides unsatisfied: President Obama, after vowing last week to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, presented the nation Tuesday with a new war strategy that seemed to contain something for everyone: a troop increase, a preliminary timetable for withdrawal, tough words for the Afghan government and an emphasis on the U.S. partnership with Pakistan.
    But by offering something to all sides in the debate, Obama may have left all sides unsatisfied — from the liberal groups who have protested any troop increase to the conservatives who object to a fixed timetable for withdrawal that, they say, could signal to enemies simply to lie low and wait.
    The reaction to the plan in the hours after Obama’s prime-time speech was swift and wide-ranging, setting the tone for a potentially contentious foreign policy debate that could define the rest of Obama’s presidency. Fox News, 12-2-09
  • With Troops Go Demands: In ordering the accelerated deployment of 30,000 fresh American troops to the country, President Obama made clear that he would demand a far greater effort from President Hamid Karzai to staunch corruption in his government and from Afghan soldiers and police officers to fight Taliban insurgents. The extra American soldiers, the president said, would only be on the ground for a limited time to ensure the Afghans followed through. But that is the heart of the problem: in laying down the gauntlet for the Afghans, President Obama is setting criteria for success that he and his field commanders may be able to influence, but which ultimately they will not be able to control…. – NYT, 12-2-09
  • Obama Outlines Plan for Afghanistan Troop Surge: After a months-long review of the U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama laid out a new course Tuesday night, saying it is in “our vital national interest” to deploy 30,000 more troops to the fight…. – PBS Newshour, 12-1-09
  • Will Obama’s war become his Vietnam?: As President Obama announced he’s sending more troops to Afghanistan, he also took on critics who made comparisons between the current situation and the war in Vietnam…. – CNN, 12-1-09
  • Obama ally breaks with him on Afghanistan: Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky was one of President Obama’s earliest and most ardent supporters. She served in the Illinois state legislature with him, and she supported his run for the U.S. Senate. But on the issue of Afghanistan, the president can’t bank on the support of his longtime political ally. “He’s made up his mind that at this point there ought to be a troop increase, and I have to say I’m very skeptical about that as a solution,” she said… – CNN, 12-1-09
  • Afghanistan Drawdown to Begin in 2011, Officials Say: President Obama will announce on Tuesday night that he will begin to draw American forces out of Afghanistan in July 2011, even after sending some 30,000 more United States troops there to reverse the momentum of Taliban insurgents, the White House said.
    “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,” the president plans to tell the nation, according to excerpts released in advance by the White House. “They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight,” Mr. Obama plans to tell a national television audience from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. “And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”… – NY”T, 12-1-09
  • Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan to Envision Exit: President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday. Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops, but also to convey how he intends to turn the fight over to the Kabul government.
    “It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”… – NYT, 11-30-09


The President at West Point

  • Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Eisenhower Hall Theatre, United States Military Academy at West Point, West Point, New York 8:01 P.M. EST WH, 12-1-09
  • Obama’s Address on the War in Afghanistan: Following is the text of President Obama’s address on a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, as released by the White House on Tuesday…
    Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It’s an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point — where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country….
    To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.
    We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.
    The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 — the fastest possible pace — so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They’ll 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.
    Because this is an international effort, I’ve asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. And 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.
    But taken together, these additional American 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. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We’ll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s security 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.
    Second, we will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security. This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We’ll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. 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.
    The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They’ve been confronted with occupation — by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, 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. 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. And 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.
    Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.
    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….
    It’s easy to forget that when this war began, we were united — bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. (Applause.) I believe with every fiber of my being that we — as Americans — can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment — they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people…. – NYT, 12-1-09


Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Spelling out his plans for Afghanistan, President Obama on Tuesday said he could “bring this war to a successful conclusion.” More Photos >

  • President’s Afghan drawdown plan called risky, ‘unrealistic’: Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University professor and former Army officer, said the balancing act could leave Obama facing “really unpalatable” choices in 2011 and beyond.
    “If you’re in my camp, you’re hard-pressed to see how everything is going to go smoothly in Afghanistan,” said Bacevich, who has called the Afghan war unnecessary and impossible to win.
    Obama could be forced to choose between sticking to his plans and leaving the American mission unfinished or extending the U.S. role in an unpopular war.
    “It’s hard to conceive that public support will have risen,” he said. “On the other hand, a president facing re-election who pulls the plug on a failing war is going to find himself charged with being an ineffective commander-in-chief.” – CNN, 12-1-09
  • Julian Zelizer “President Obama set to hike troops in Afghanistan, risking political fallout and recalling Vietnam”: “Is Obama in danger of becoming an unpopular wartime president?”: “What we’ve seen with other presidents is the more you get bogged down by war, the more that becomes how Americans and fellow politicians define your presidency,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He cited former President Lyndon B. Johnson and Bush as examples. Obama must quickly establish civil stability and get U.S. troops out within the year — a difficult task, Zelizer said.
    “Does the president’s challenge in Afghanistan mirror Johnson’s troubles in Vietnam?”: Johnson, like Obama, faced divisions in the White House and Congress on whether to escalate the war, and both wars are incredibly messy with no clear-cut enemy, Zelizer said. Obama, however, has Vietnam to learn from. “The memories and the fears of Vietnam, they’re shaping the debate over Afghanistan,” Zelizer said…. – AM NY, 12-1-09
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