President Obama to announce surge of at least 25,000 new US troops to Afghanistan next week

Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’


General Stanley McChrystal asked for 40,000 more troops in August
(John Moore/Getty Images)

President Obama will next week announce a surge of at least 25,000 new US troops to Afghanistan in a speech to the nation, according to US officials today.

Mr Obama will make the announcement in an address on Tuesday, December 1, after weeks of deliberations over his Afghan strategy and a tenth session with his war council in the White House on Monday night.

The final session was dominated by an issue that has been the focus of Mr Obama’s thinking in recent weeks: how to get US troops out of Afghanistan.

The exit strategy for the US military has been as important an element of the strategy review as how many additional troops to send. “It’s not just how we get people there, but what’s the strategy for getting them out,” said Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama’s spokesman.

Mr Obama was presented with a request for at least 40,000 additional troops in August by his ground commander, General Stanley McChrystal, and has been accused of “dithering” by Republican critics because of the amount of time he has taken to come to a decision.

The exact number of new troops he will send remains unclear, although a final decision will be made by Mr Obama over the Thanksgiving holiday this week. Some military officials said they expected him to settle on a middle-ground option of between 32,000 and 35,000 US forces. Others put the figure at 25,000.

The speech will be a critical first step in Mr Obama’s effort to persuade an increasingly sceptical US public that the war is still worth fighting. Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans do not support sending more troops.

After Mr Obama announces his decision, General McChrystal and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Afghanistan, will testify before the congressional committees that would consider funding further war efforts.

They will be questioned by senior Democrats who oppose sending more troops. Mr Eikenberry, a former military commander in Afghanistan, will in particular face some uncomfortable questions.

A secret cable he sent to Washington that was leaked earlier this month revealed that he also opposed sending more troops – a stance starkly at odds with general McChrystal – because of the corruption and unreliability of President Hamid Karzai’s government.

The exposure of the message was the latest episode in a review process that has been beset by leaks and second-guessing.

November 24, 2009
Tim Reid in Washington

Source: The Times

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