Obama orders 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan - What do you think? We will be able to stop the Taliban?
WASHINGTON â€“ President Barack Obama approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the flagging war in Afghanistan, his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the United States is not winning.
"This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires," Obama said in a statement.
That was a slap at his predecessor, George W. Bush, whom Obama has accused of slighting urgent national security needs in Afghanistan in favor of war in Iraq.
The White House said the new commander in chief would send a Marine unit and one additional Army brigade to Afghanistan this spring and summer. About 8,000 Marines are expected to go first, followed by an Army brigade, totalling about 4,000 troops, and 5,000 support forces. The United States has slightly more than 30,000 troops in the country now.
The new troops represent the first installment on a larger influx of U.S. forces widely expected this year. Obama's move would put several thousand troops in place in time for the increase in fighting that usually occurs with warmer weather and ahead of national elections in August.
The additional forces partly answer a standing request from the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, who has sought as many as 30,000 additional U.S. troops to counter the resurgence of the Taliban militants and protect Afghan civilians.
"There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm's way," Obama said. "I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action."
Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq allows him to increase the numbers in Afghanistan. Last fall, the Pentagon announced that the Fort Lewis brigade was being ordered to go to Iraq. Tuesday's announcement changes their destination. It was not clear whether the Pentagon would send another unit to Iraq in its place. If not, Iraq forces would drop by one brigade.
Ahead of his first foreign trip this week, Obama told a Canadian news organization that the United States will seek a more comprehensive, diplomatic approach to Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been engaged in war since 2001.
"I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means," the president said in a White House interview with Toronto-based Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Obama agreed to a troop recommendation from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the lone holdover from the Bush administration. Pentagon officials had been expecting a similar announcement for weeks, but the new Obama team took about a month choosing how and when to add forces to a war that has been sliding backward.
The president made his decision Tuesday, a senior White House official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement, said Obama informed congressional leaders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai by phone.