President Barack Obama will increase the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.
After a months-long strategy review, Obama tonight will address a range of listeners, including voters weary of the war, lawmakers divided over its cost in lives and money, a scandal- plagued Afghan government and a stubborn Taliban insurgency.
Obama, in speech of 30 to 40 minutes, will announce "an acceleration" of a strategy to “disrupt, dismantle and destroy al-Qaeda and its extremist allies” and help prevent another 9/11-style attack, spokesman Robert Gibbs said on NBC’s “Today” show. The president will order a troop increase of 30,000 to 35,000, Gibbs told Bloomberg News separately, Bloomberg reports.
It was also reported, in bringing the total American force to nearly 100,000 troops by the end of May, the administration will move far faster than it had originally planned. Until recently, discussions focused on a deployment that would take a year, but Mr. Obama concluded that the situation required “more, sooner,” as one official said, explaining the some of the central conclusions Mr. Obama reached at the end of a nearly three-month review of American war strategy.
The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss the strategy to Afghanistan and Pakistan that Mr. Obama will formally announce in a nationally televised address from the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night.
The strategy aims to prevent Al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, whose territory it used to prepare for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and to keep Taliban insurgents from toppling the government there. The 30,000 new American troops will focus on securing a number of population centers in Afghanistan where the Taliban are strongest, including Kandahar in the south and Khost in the east, the officials said. The American forces, they said, will pair up with specific Afghan units in an effort to end eight years of frustrating attempts to build them into an independent fighting force, The New York Times reports.
News agencies also report, Obama was spending much of Monday and Tuesday on the phone, outlining his plan — minus many specifics — for the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, India, Denmark, Poland and others. He also met in person at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
A briefing for dozens of key lawmakers was planned for Tuesday afternoon, just before Obama was set to leave the White House for the speech against a military backdrop at West Point.
The Afghan government said Tuesday that President Hamid Karzai and Obama had an hourlong video conference. Obama was also going to speak with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
In Afghanistan, rampant government corruption and inefficiency have made U.S. success much harder. Obama was expected to place tough conditions on Karzai's government, along with endorsing a stepped-up training program for the Afghan armed forces along the outline recommended this fall by U.S. trainers.
That schedule would expand the Afghan army to 134,000 troops by next fall, three years earlier than once envisioned, The Associated Press reports.
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