President Barack Obama will tell Americans Tuesday night that he is deploying 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next six months, administration officials said in advance of Obama’s nationally-televised address to the nation. Obama’s decision escalates the United States’ commitment in Afghanistan to over 100,000 troops at a time when many Americans no longer believe the war is worth fighting and are increasingly concerned about federal spending.
The president will try to allay those concerns in his 8 p.m. speech from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point by laying out what amounts to an exit strategy, including a timeframe for getting U.S. troops out as well, administration officials said.
A White House official said that time frame for U.S. troops to begin withdrawal will be before the end of Obama’s first term.White House aides say Obama will assure war wary Americans that his Afghanistan surge will be rapid, that the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan is not open-ended, and that he expects the Afghan government to step up its ability to take control of its own country quickly, allowing U.S. forces to exit.
Obama will also remind Americans of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that tipped off the war in Afghanistan eight years ago, saying the United States cannot afford not to pour more resources into Afghanistan.
“The deployment plans that the president will announce tonight will be accelerated. We’re going to get in there quickly,” White House press secretaryRobert Gibbs said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday.
“The president will talk about a period in time that he believes we’ll be transitioning American forces out of Afghanistan and putting more responsibility — the sole responsibility for security onto the Afghans.”
The White House has been telegraphing Obama’s decision for weeks, a seeming attempt to ease the nation into what is shaping up as one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, and a course that polls show a large portion of the public wishes he wouldn’t take.
The surge marks a turning point for Obama, one where he will take on full ownership of a war he campaigned on changing, arguing that the Bush administration ignored Afghanistan by focusing on Iraq and, in turn, allowed the Al Qaeda-friendly Taliban to regain ground.
But the situation and American sentiment has changed in the past year.The new troops will essentially triple the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan that was in place when Obama took office.
He announced in March that he was sending 21,000 more troops to help with security in advance of the country’s elections. And the months that have followed have been the bloodiest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the war began.
Obama faces stiff resistance to a further troop buildup from fellow Democrats, who question whether the U.S. can still achieve victory in Afghanistan. Some in Congress have called for a “war surtax” to fund any troop buildup, though the White House has been cool to that idea.
Obama will make the case that the future of Afghanistan is an international security concern, and to bolster American support of the war he will promise stepped-up buy-in from U.S. allies, including the UK, which has already agreed to commit more troops to the effort.
“What the president tonight will announce is an accelerated strategy to go after al Qaeda and its extremists, accelerate the training of Afghan national security forces and eventually give control over to the Afghans, and responsibility of providing their own security,” Gibbs said in his MSNBC interview.
“This will not be nation-building. This is not an open-ended commitment. What we’re doing is putting forth a comprehensive strategy and an endgame in Afghanistan.”
Surrounded by his top aides in the Oval Office Obama gave the military orders to implement his strategy Sunday evening, two days before he is set to explain his plan to Americans.