Obama orders 30-35,000 more troops for Afghanistan, surge to begin by Christmas

Update: Obama reportedly wants war over within three years

“President Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but plans to conclude the war and withdraw most U.S. soldiers within three years, senior administration officials told CNN Tuesday,” the cable news network reports.

A Huffington Post/AP report notes, “By laying out a rough timeframe and some dates for when the main U.S. military mission would end, as well as emphasizing stepped-up training for Afghan forces, the president was acknowledging the increasingly divided public opinion over continued American participation in the stalemated war.”

Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin blogs

The latest reports are that Obama will announce a general time frame for withdrawal tonight: In three years –before the end of his first term –most troops will be out. That’s an exciting and ambitious target. But if it turns out to be just an unsupported best-case scenario, then his promise is just so many words.

To make the case that the war in Afghanistan will truly end in three years — or ever — Obama tonight would need to announce not just a time frame for withdrawal, but a detailed timeline — along with unambiguous benchmarks. And he would need to say precisely what happens if the benchmarks aren’t met – i.e. if things don’t go according to plan.

Because things in Afghanistan never go according to plan.

Otherwise, there will be much more in the speech for neocons and other warhawks than for the majority of Americans who would prefer withdrawal over escalation. As Gideon Rose, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, put it to me in an interview yesterday: “They’ll get the troops — and you’ll get some nice rhetoric.”

Froomkin added:

Otherwise, there will be much more in the speech for neocons and other warhawks than for the majority of Americans who would prefer withdrawal over escalation. As Gideon Rose, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, put it to me in an interview yesterday: “They’ll get the troops — and you’ll get some nice rhetoric.”

Original story follows:

After months of debate, President Barack Obama will spell out a costly Afghanistan war expansion to a skeptical public Tuesday night, coupling an infusion of as many as 35,000 more troops with a vow that there will be no endless U.S. commitment. His first orders have already been made: at least one group of Marines who will be in place by Christmas.

Obama has said that he prefers “not to hand off anything to the next president” and that his strategy will “put us on a path toward ending the war.” But he doesn’t plan to give any more exact timetable than that Tuesday night.

The president will end his 92-day review of the war with a nationally broadcast address in which he will lay out his revamped strategy from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He spent part of Monday briefing foreign allies in a series of private meetings and phone calls.

Before Obama’s call to Britain’s Gordon Brown, the prime minister announced that 500 more U.K. troops would arrive in southern Afghanistan next month — making a British total of about 10,000 in the country. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose nation has more than 3,000 in Afghanistan, said French troops would stay “as long as necessary” to stabilize the country.

Obama’s war escalation includes sending 30,000 to 35,000 more American forces into Afghanistan in a graduated deployment over the next year, on top of the 71,000 already there. There also will be a fresh focus on training Afghan forces to take over the fight and allow the Americans to leave.

He also will deliver a deeper explanation of why he believes the U.S. must continue to fight more than eight years after the war was started following the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists based in Afghanistan. He will emphasize that Afghan security forces need more time, more schooling and more U.S. combat backup to be up to the job on their own, and he will make tougher demands on the governments of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

“This is not an open-ended commitment,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “We are there to partner with the Afghans, to train the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police so that they can provide security for their country and wage a battle against an unpopular insurgency.”

On a few of the bigger questions most on the minds of increasingly restive members of Congress and the public, such as how much the additional $30 billion to $35 billion cost will balloon the already skyrocketed federal deficit, how long the U.S. commitment will continue and how it will wind down, Obama was expected to make references without offering specifics.

Gibbs said detailed discussions on costs would be held later with lawmakers.

Even before explaining his decision, Obama told the military to begin executing the force increases. The commander in chief gave the deployment orders Sunday night, during an Oval Office meeting in which he told key military and White House advisers of his final decision.

At least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Obama’s announcement and will be in Afghanistan by Christmas, military officials said. Larger deployments will begin early next year.

The initial infusion is a recognition by the administration that something tangible needs to happen quickly, officials said. The immediate addition of Marines will provide badly needed reinforcements for those fighting against Taliban gains in the southern Helmand province, and also could lend reassurance to both Afghans and a war-weary U.S. public.

Full story continues below

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