Obama Launches Afghanistan War Strategy Ahead of National Address

President Obama is to announce the strategy in a national address Tuesday night. He is expected to send about 30,000 additional American troops to fight in Afghanistan


Michael Bowman

President Barack Obama has initiated a new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan ahead of a Tuesday night speech to the nation on the future of U.S. efforts in the strife-torn nation. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says President Obama informed his national security team of his strategy decision for Afghanistan late Sunday, and issued orders for its implementation.

Since then, the president has held a series of telephone calls with U.S. allies, a process that will continue through Tuesday, when Mr. Obama is scheduled to unveil his revised Afghan war strategy to the nation in an address from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Press Secretary Gibbs declined to divulge specific details about the strategy, which the administration has been pondering for months amid a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, a contested national election there and public opinion polls showing declining American support for the eight-year war.

But one day before President Obama was expected to announce a troop buildup in the tens of thousands, Gibbs repeatedly stressed that the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended. "We are not going to be there forever.  And we do not have the resources - manpower or budgetary - to be primarily responsible for the security of Afghanistan.  Afghans have to be primarily responsible for that security," he said. 

Gibbs said a major goal will be to train Afghan forces so that they can assume control of areas secured by foreign troops.

For the plan to succeed, however, the press secretary said the United States needs a reliable partner in Kabul. "It is time for a new chapter in our relationship as it relates to corruption and improved governance in order to address the security situation," he said.

The press secretary said President Obama will touch on the costs of the new plan for Afghanistan in Tuesday's speech, but that he is unlikely to delve into the subject in detail.  Gibbs stressed that the financial impact has been part of the administration's deliberations from the beginning.  He declined to comment on whether Mr. Obama would consider a proposal by some fellow Democrats in Congress for a special war tax to pay for an expanded U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Some Democratic lawmakers say they worry that mounting war expenditures will sap the already-debt-ridden federal budget of funds that could otherwise pay for domestic priorities.  Cost estimates for the 30,000 to 35,000-troop build-up Mr. Obama is expected to announce run as high as $75 billion.

Gibbs said that while outlining and advocating a new way forward in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama's speech will address the need for strengthened diplomatic engagement with neighboring Pakistan, which is also threatened by militant extremists.

President Obama has described Afghanistan as a war the United States cannot afford to lose.  But he has also decried what he sees as the previous administration's diversion of resources away from Afghanistan in order to wage war in Iraq.

Analysts say that in Tuesday's address to the nation, the president will stress that success in Afghanistan can still be attained, and that further investment and sacrifice are necessary and worthwhile.

Mr. Obama is expected to refer to the enhanced Afghan mission as an international endeavor.  Britain announced on Monday that it will send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan in the next few weeks, boosting its forces in the country to more than 10,000.

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