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Obama’s Afghanistan Plan: 30,000 Troops, Marines To Be First Wave

JENNIFER LOVEN and ANNE GEARAN | 12/ 1/09 10:55 AM | AP

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan over six months, a senior administration official said Tuesday, on an accelerated timetable that would dispatch several hundred Marines by Christmas.

With the full complement of troops expected by next summer, the heightened pace of Obama’s military deployment in the 8-year-old war would appear to match the 2007 troop surge in Iraq, which rushed 20,000 combat forces to quell violence there. The Afghan surge would similarly aim to reverse Taliban gains and secure population centers in the volatile south and east parts of the country.

In his prime-time speech to the nation Tuesday night at West Point, Obama will tie the escalation to an exit strategy, laying out a rough timeframe and some dates for when the main U.S. military mission would end. Public opinion in this country has become increasingly divided over American participation in the stalemated war.

Obama will try to sell a skeptical public on his bigger, costlier war plan by coupling the large new troop infusion with an emphasis on stepped-up training for Afghan forces that he says will allow the U.S. to leave.

The new infusion of troops had been envisioned to take place over a year, or even more, because force deployments in Iraq and elsewhere make it logistically difficult, if not impossible, to go faster.

Instead, Obama directed his military planners to make the changes necessary to speed up the Afghanistan additions, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details had not yet been announced.

Military officials said at least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Obama’s announcement, and would be in Afghanistan by Christmas. Larger deployments wouldn’t be able to follow until early in 2010.

The initial infusion is a recognition by the administration that something tangible needs to happen quickly, officials said. The quick addition of Marines would provide badly needed reinforcements to those fighting against Taliban gains in the southern Helmand province, and could lend reassurance to both Afghans and the U.S. public.

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Obama approves deployment of more than 10,000 troops to Afghanistan.»

Think Progress- By Amanda Terkel at 5:20 pm

This afternoon, the White House released a statement by President Obama announcing the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan. Noting that the “situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action,” Obama said that he “approved a request from Secretary Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring and an Army Stryker Brigade and the enabling forces necessary to support them later this summer.” Various media outlets are reporting that he will be sending roughly 12,000 troops to Afghanistan. The Progress Report has more on the challenges remaining in Afghanistan.

Obama’s full statement below:

There is no more solemn duty as President than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm’s way. I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border.

To meet urgent security needs, I approved a request from Secretary Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring and an Army Stryker Brigade and the enabling forces necessary to support them later this summer. This increase has been requested by General McKiernan and supported by Secretary Gates, the Joint Chiefs and the Commander of Central Command. General McKiernan’s request for these troops is months old, and the fact that we are going to responsibly drawdown our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan.

This reinforcement will contribute to the security of the Afghan people and to stability in Afghanistan. I recognize the extraordinary strain that this deployment places on our troops and military families. I honor their service, and will give them the support they need.

This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires. That is why I ordered a review of our policy upon taking office, so we have a comprehensive strategy and the necessary resources to meet clear and achievable objectives in Afghanistan and the region. This troop increase does not pre-determine the outcome of that strategic review. Instead, it will further enable our team to put together a comprehensive strategy that will employ all elements of our national power to fulfill achievable goals in Afghanistan. As we develop our new strategic goals, we will do so in concert with our friends and allies as together we seek the resources necessary to succeed.

Update– Yglesias’s take on the announcement:

To remain effective in Afghanistan, we desperately need to reduce the civilian death toll. That means less airstrikes. Which probably means more boots on the ground. And hopefully more boots on the ground can also reduce civilian exposure to death-by-Taliban. That’d be how you get the job done.But success of this venture is contingent not so much on the additional troops as on the adoption of a different strategy—one more focused on population security and less reliant on air power. It would be nice to learn some more details so as to really evaluate what’s happening.

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Update– Bloomberg is reporting that the order signed by Obama boosts U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan “by 17,000 combat and support personnel.”
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UpdateVoteVets called Obama’s announcement “most welcome,” praising the new administration for promoting “not just a military boost, but a strengthening of our diplomatic and political efforts there.”

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