Obama vows to "never rush" Afghan troops decision despite growing pressure

08:53, October 27, 2009      

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Increasingly pressed to make a quick decision on whether to send more U.S. troop to Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Monday that he "will never rush" on such a decision.


U.S. President Barack Obama departs for a two-day trip to Florida from the White House in Washington, October 26, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

"NEVER RUSH THE DECISION"

"I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you in the harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it's absolutely necessary," said the president while delivering a speech to some 3,500 military personnel at a naval air station in Jacksonville, Fla.

"This is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan," he stressed.

Stating that he "will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests," Obama pledged that even if it's necessary to send the U.S. troops into war, "we will back you up to the hilt."

The U.S. troops "deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and all of the equipment and support you need to get the job done," said the president, adding that "we are not going to have a situation in which you are not fully supported back here at home."

"That is a promise that I will always make to you," said Obama.

The president's remarks came as his administration faces growing pressure to decide on whether to further increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan following an eight-year war.

But the decision is so hard to make as top U.S. officials are still split on the future direction of the Afghan strategy.

On one hand, Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan and Republicans are pressing Obama to act quickly to increase the present 68,000-troop level by at least 40,000.

Meanwhile, senior White House advisors are reportedly pushing back the request for sending large number of additional troops, saying that the United States should instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, assassinations of al-Qaida leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan to fight against the Taliban.

THE DEADLIEST DAY IN 4 YEARS

The speech was made against a backdrop of rising U.S. casualties in Afghanistan and political turmoil surrounding a planned Nov. 7 Afghan presidential election runoff.

Fourteen U.S. troops died Monday in Afghanistan following two helicopter crashes, making it the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in four years.

The first incident, killing 10 American troops, occurred in the western part of the country after their helicopter went down.

Four more troops died when their helicopters collided in southern Afghanistan.

In his remarks, the president paid tribute to the families of the 14 killed U.S. troops.

"While no words can ease the ache in their hearts today, may they find some comfort in knowing this: like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud," he said.

"They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida and its extremist allies," Obama added.

The growing casualty toll is believed to be a key reason why public support for the Afghan war wanes in the United States, which makes sending more troops to Afghanistan a politically risky decision.

That partially explains why Obama took great cautions in the approach to make such a decision.

NO CLEAR TIMELINE FOR DECISION

Before flying into Jacksonville, Obama met his national security team to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the sixth time in a month.

But there is still no clear timeline for when a decision could be reached.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the decision will be made in "coming weeks," a line the Obama administration repeated for weeks.

The remarks sounds a retreat from a statement he made on last Wednesday, when he told reporters that the decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan could come before the Nov. 7 Afghanistan runoff election.

Some analysts said the time frame for Obama to make such a decision is tight, since he will soon embark on a long trip to Asia starting Nov. 12.

However, recent developments, including new U.S. casualties and Afghan political turmoil, could add more complications into the president's decision-making process.

Source: Xinhua
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