Obama unveils new Afghanistan strategy, announces troop surge

16:46, December 02, 2009      

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U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his new Afghanistan strategy Tuesday night, saying he will deploy another 30,000 soldiers to the war-weary country mainly in the first half of 2010.

The first batch of additional troops will arrive by Christmas and the overall buildup will be completed by next summer with "the fastest pace possible," according to Obama, who spoke in front of an applauding audience of cadets in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Obama said the reinforced troops will "break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months," by targeting the insurgency, securing key population centers and increasing training to Afghan security forces.

However, questions have been raised over Obama's time frame to get the troops in place by next summer.

Prior to Obama's address, a U.S. official said at a briefing that the deployment time is "an imprecise science," and declined to go into details of the deployment. The official declined to be named because Obama hadn't spoken yet at the time of the briefing.

In his address, Obama said the additional troops are part of a military effort to create the conditions for a transition, and the United States will not only depend on its military might to secure Afghanistan.

The first batch of additional troops are some 9,000 Marines, expected to be deployed by Christmas into Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

Obama said he will reject goals that cannot be achieved at a reasonable cost, saying his country has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan, and the Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security.

Explaining his lack of interest in being responsible for Afghanistan's security forever, Obama said the United States is still emerging from an economic crisis, and the nation he's most interested in building is his own.

Obama also said the days of "providing a blank check" to Afghanistan are over, saying his government will support Afghan ministries, governors and local leaders, who combat corruption and deliver for the people.

Eight years into the war, the United States has seen more than 900 of its soldiers killed in Afghanistan, with October being the deadliest month with 74 U.S. combat deaths. Tens of thousands of Afghans have died during the war.

While military and civilian deaths keep climbing, insurgency also keeps growing in Afghanistan .

Obama had ordered to send 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in March and the U.S. troop level there has grown to 68,000. However, as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, Stanley McChrystal, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been calling for 40,000 more troops since August to quell the insurgency led by the Taliban.

By deploying 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, the United States will have nearly 100,000 troops on the ground in that country, almost two thirds of which are sent there by Obama's orders.

Explaining his decision on the surge, Obama said the Afghan war is not "another Vietnam."

He said maintaining the current troop level in Afghanistan willonly maintain a status quo in which the United States muddles through, and permit it to deteriorate slowly.

Source: Xinhua
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