Obama: ‘In Our Vital National Interest’ to Send 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan

December 2, 2009

(ChattahBox)—President Barack Obama outlined his Afghanistan strategy last night before a room filled with cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. His mood was somber and he stood alone at the podium flanked by the American flag. Obama carefully outlined his plan to the American people, which includes 30,000 more troops deployed to Afghanistan with a date certain for withdrawal beginning in July 2011.

He outlined his reasons for the additional troop deployments, by reminding us of 9/11 and the risks to our security, if al-Qaeda is allowed to continue to gain strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he spoke of both the human and financial costs of his decision. The President’s decision will not make everyone happy. Obama spoke of the polarizing partisanship poisoning our discourse. Indeed, the Republicans want an open ended war and double the troop deployment. But the GOP will criticize any decision made by this President. The Democrats are divided. Many progressives want the two wars to come to an end now. And they have a point. There certainly has been enough bloodshed, beginning with the war in Iraq that the Bush administration led us into under false pretenses. But as our soldiers are finally leaving the quagmire that is Iraq, more of our soldiers are losing their lives in Afghanistan. When will it all end? President Obama says it will end in 18 months. We should take him at his word.

Below are some excerpts from Obama’s speech:

“To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight.”

“Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them — an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 — the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all.”

“Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy — and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden — we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels.”

“Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.”

“When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that’s why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops.”

“I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.”

“Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There’s no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum.”

“And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

“Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I’ll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.”

“And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

“This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue — nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.”

The full text of Obama’s speech, including video, can be found here.


2 Responses to “Obama: ‘In Our Vital National Interest’ to Send 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan”

  1. Italy Promises ‘1,000 Extra Soldiers’ for Afghanistan | ChattahBox News Blog on December 3rd, 2009 10:03 am

    […] the wake of President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, pressure is now being applied to U.S. NATO allies to increase their troop deployments to the […]

  2. Cheney Uses Christmas Attack to Undermine President Obama’s ‘Low Key Response’ | ChattahBox News Blog on December 30th, 2009 3:18 pm

    […] “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” and most recently when speaking before West Point, to announce his decision to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan “to disrupt, dismantle […]

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