December 2, 2009
The US president has decided to raise the number of American troops in Afghanistan by some 40 percent, a move that would see Washington deploy another 30,000 soldiers.
In a live televised speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York on Tuesday, Barack Obama said the troops would be deployed in the first part of 2010.
“As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan,” he told the cadets.
He stated that the fresh troops, who will increase the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 68,000 to 100,000, would focus on targeting the resurgent Taliban, securing key population centers, and training military personnel.
In a very emphatic tone, he warned that the United States would end its eight-year mission in the next 19 months. He said that a drawdown would begin in July 2011.
However, he gave no deadline for a full US withdrawal but tried to imply the given date for the start of the pullout indicated that his administration was not pursuing an “open-ended escalation” of the war effort.
“Our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended… the nation that I am most interested in building is our own,” he said, reasoning that an open-ended military campaign would get the US tangled up in “nation building project of up to a decade” in Afghanistan.
[efoods]Obama then went to revive the arguments that Washington has tried to provide as justification for the invasion of Afghanistan since the beginning of the 2001 occupation, by recalling the September 11 incidents.
“It is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place… On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people,” he said.
“They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women and children.
“As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents,” he added.
There are no estimates available on the number of civilians who have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion, but according to UN figures, over 1,500 Afghans have been killed just in the first half of 2009.
Furthermore, countless reports by international press, including leading US media, indicate that the top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar all reside in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.
During the past eight years, the US has made no substantial effort to detain these top leaders in Pakistan, while Britain even presented an initiative for dialogue with the militants and a possible compromise.
On his Tuesday speech, Obama also acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated over the last several years as the Taliban had gained ground.
He also said that now the Afghans must take responsibility for their own country, without explaining how this could happen considering the significant US military buildup in Afghanistan.
The president said the US must pay attention to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, adding that the same “cancer” of terror that hampered Afghanistan had taken root along the border with Pakistan.
Pakistan and the United States have a common enemy in extremism, he claimed.
Obama also leaned heavily on NATO allies and other countries by calling on them to help escalate the war by sending more soldiers, and said, “We must come together to end this war successfully.”
NATO diplomats said Obama was asking alliance partners in Europe to add 5,000 to 10,000 troops to the separate international force in Afghanistan.
NATO allies and other countries have about 40,000 troops on the ground in the war-torn state.
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