This article and headline incorrectly said that President Obama planned to announce the deployment of 34,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama plans to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to the country, administration officials said.
Obama to send 34,000 troops to Afghanistan
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
President Obama will outline Tuesday his intention to send an additional 34,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials and diplomatic sources briefed Monday as Obama began informing allies of his plan.
The new deployments, along with 22,000 troops he authorized early this year, would bring the total U.S. force in Afghanistan to more than 100,000, more than half of which will have been sent to the war zone by Obama.
The president also plans to ask NATO and other partners in an international coalition to contribute 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, officials said. The combined U.S. and NATO deployments would nearly reach the 40,000 requested last summer by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the coalition commander in Afghanistan, as part of an intensified counterinsurgency strategy.
The new troops are to be sent in stages beginning in January, with options to delay or cancel deployments, depending on the performance of the Afghan government and other factors. Defense officials said that, beyond Marine units deploying next month, no final decisions have been made about specific units or the order in which they would be sent.
Details of Obama's plan emerged on the eve of his prime-time address from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He will use the Tuesday speech to explain his Afghan strategy to an American public that is increasingly pessimistic about the war after eight years and rising casualties.
Even as he escalates U.S. involvement, Obama will lay out in his speech what amounts to an exit strategy, centered on measures to strengthen the Afghan government so that its security forces can begin taking control of their own country. He is expected to specify benchmarks for Afghan progress on both the military and political fronts, according to U.S. and allied officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the strategy.
White House officials remained tight-lipped, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- with whom Obama spoke Monday -- offered a preview of aspects of the strategy when he addressed Parliament.
The military objective, Brown said, is "to create the space for an effective political strategy to work, weakening the Taliban by strengthening Afghanistan itself." Over the next year, he said, the Afghan army will be expanded from 90,000 to 134,000 troops, with 10,000 of them going to Helmand province, where U.S. Marines and British forces have focused their fight against the Taliban. Further increases are envisioned for later.
The number of Afghan policemen in Helmand will increase immediately to 4,100, Brown said, and the size of the police training academy in Helmand is to be doubled. Within six months, the coalition is to finalize a plan for overall police reform with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Brown said that the strategy calls for "transfer of lead security responsibility to the Afghans -- district by district, province by province -- with the first districts and provinces potentially being handed over during the next year," depending on "the Afghans being ready."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that transferring security responsibility for specific Afghan areas will be "a big part of what you'll hear the president talk about tomorrow."
Allied governments have pressed Karzai to remove warlords and cronies from senior government positions. Over the next nine months, Brown said, the Afghan president "will be expected to implement . . . far-reaching reforms to ensure that, from now on, all 400 provinces and districts have a governor appointed on merit, free from corruption, with clearly defined roles, skills and resources."