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Obama's war strategy focuses on AFG, PAK; US troop buildup in AFG to rise to 60K


Army.ca Fixture
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Some actions showing his resolve to win the War on Terror on the Afghanistan/Pakistan front.


Obama: Anti-terror plans focus on Pakistan, Afghanistan
Story Highlights
Intelligence shows al Qaeda planning attacks on U.S., President Obama says

Part of Afghan strategy is $1.5 billion annually for five years in aid for Pakistan

U.S. to send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan as well as 17,000 announced earlier

Hundreds of civilian specialists also to be deployed

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More troops, new legislation, improved troop training and added civilian expertise highlight President Obama's strategy to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama on Friday announced his plan to tackle what he called an "international security challenge of the highest order."

Stressing soberly that "the safety of people around the world is at stake," Obama said the "situation is increasingly perilous" in the region in and around Afghanistan, where the United States has been fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban for more than 7½ years after attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

"The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives," said Obama, who has vowed to make Afghanistan the central front in the fight against terrorism.

"So let me be clear: Al Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.

"And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban -- or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged -- that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

Obama said it is key Americans understand that Pakistan "needs our help" against al Qaeda.
"Al Qaeda and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They have killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated [former Pakistani Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto. They have blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment and threatened the stability of the state. Make no mistake: Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within." Watch Obama's speech on Afghanistan, Pakistan threats »

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama called on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Richard Lugar, R-Indiana.

The legislation authorizes "$1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years -- resources that will build schools, roads and hospitals and strengthen Pakistan's democracy," he said.

He also urged Congress to pass legislation that would create opportunity zones in the border region. The goal is to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued by violence. Obama said, "We will ask our friends and allies to do their part," including at a donors conference next month in Tokyo, Japan.

"After years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets. "

Obama said the United States must work with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and others to help Pakistan get through the economic crisis.

"To lessen tensions between two nuclear-armed nations that too often teeter on the edge of escalation and confrontation, we must pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan."

Afghan President Harmid Karzai watched the speech on CNN from Kabul, said Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Karzai "is extremely grateful and will issue his statement of support," Holbrooke said.

Obama stressed that "Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq" and now a commitment must be made.

Obama said he is sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, along with hundreds of civilian specialists, such as agricultural experts, educators and engineers. The troops -- which are in addition to the 17,000 announced earlier -- will be charged with training and building the Afghan army and police force.

The stakes are high as al Qaeda and the Taliban have escalated the insurgency and the number of U.S. troops deaths spiked last year -- the highest yearly death toll for them in the war.

Obama said the soldiers and Marines "will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east" and will work with Afghan troops along the border. He said such an effort will bolster "security in advance of the important presidential election in August." Watch Obama tell terrorists U.S. will defeat them »

Obama said the coalition "will accelerate" efforts to "build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 -- and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward."

He said Afghanistan's government has been "undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people" and its economy is undercut by "a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency." Watch Obama's remarks on the Afghan situation »

Obama said the United States will set clear benchmarks for international assistance and won't ignore attention to corruption.

He said the United States will develop a new contact group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that would include not only NATO allies and other partners but also Central Asian states, Gulf nations and Iran, Russia, India and China.

Reacting to Obama's plan, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said he is pleased the president is focusing on al Qaeda and is addressing the role of Pakistan but expressed concern the strategy could remain "overly Afghan-centric."

Citing Friday's suicide attack on a mosque in the Pakistani tribal region near Afghanistan, Feingold said, "This new administration must ensure that we do what we must not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan."

He said, "As the bombing near the Khyber Pass this morning highlights, we need to fully address the inextricable links between the crisis in Afghanistan and the instability and terrorist threats in Pakistan."

The bombing killed at least 48 people and wounded 80 to 90 others.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Obama's plan, saying it is "a significant pivot" away from the Democratic Party's left wing.

"So the president's decision to continue Secretary Gates, follow [U.S. Central Command chief] Gen. [David] Petraeus' advice -- which may be somewhat exasperating to his own political left -- I think is in the best interest of the country and I think he's going to enjoy pretty strong Republican support for the plan," the Kentucky Republican told reporters.


Obama outlines new Afghanistan strategy 
AM - Saturday, 28 March , 2009  08:00:00
Reporter: Michael Rowland
ELIZABETH JACKSON: The US President Barack Obama has confirmed a fundamental rethink of US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The President is vowing to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban as he sends an additional 4,000 American troops to Afghanistan.

He says the extra soldiers will train and bolster the Afghan army and police and will also provide support for civilian development.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have welcomed the new strategy. Mr Obama has warned the situation in both countries is increasingly perilous.

And he says he'll be asking America's allies, like Australia, to send more troops to quell the strengthening Taliban insurgency.

Here's our Washington correspondent Michael Rowland.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Barack Obama says the war in Afghanistan is the deadliest it's been since the US-led invasion in 2001.

BARACK OBAMA: The situation is increasingly perilous. It's been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The President says it's from this region that terrorist attacks like the 2002 Bali bombing were launched, and he's bluntly warning Americans there could be more carnage to come.

BARACK OBAMA: Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.

And if the Afghan falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: That's why Mr Obama's decided to send an extra 4,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Their main task will be training the Afghan army to eventually take control of their country.

The reinforcements are on top of the 17,000 additional soldiers the President dispatched last month. They'll take total US troop numbers in Afghanistan to around 60,000.

But Mr Obama stresses America can't win the war alone. He says coalition partners like Australia will also be asked to step up.

BARACK OBAMA: As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part. From our partners and NATO allies we will… We will seek not simply troops, but rather, clearly defined capabilities; supporting the Afghan elections, training Afghan security forces, a greater civilian commitment to the Afghan people.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: America's special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, says many of America's allies have privately promised to send to send more troops or non-military assistance.

As the President repeatedly made clear in his nationally televised address, Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked.

He says al-Qaeda is a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within. Mr Obama has announced a tripling in US aid to the troubled country, to $12 billion over the next five years.

And the President has made it clear the Pakistani military must, in return, redouble its efforts to destroy al-Qaeda safe havens in the country's remote tribal regions.

BARACK OBAMA: And after years of mixed results we will not and cannot provide a blank cheque. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.

We will insist that action be taken, one way or another, when we have intelligence about high level terrorist targets.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: That's a not-so-veiled warning the US military will continue to take unilateral action against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets within Pakistan's borders.

The escalation of the war in Afghanistan is a big step for the new President. 'He's gone all in', says a White House official; 'It's his war now'. And it's one Mr Obama is determined to win.

In Washington this is Michael Rowland reporting for Saturday AM. 



Jr. Member
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Wonder if this means we'll keep our toys in the sandbox a little later than currently projected?


Army.ca Fixture
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And yet another update: Obama manages to get other NATO nations to commit 5,000 new military trainers and police to the Afghanistan front alongside the further 21,000 US forces he is committing there, IIRC, since he did emphasize in one of his speeches in Europe just this past week about how America must not shoulder the burden of Afghanistan alone.


Obama hails 5,000 more NATO forces for Afghanistan
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer Tom Raum, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 3 mins ago

STRASBOURG, France – President Barack Obama hailed "strong and unanimous support" from NATO allies on Saturday for his stepped-up anti-terror strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and welcomed their "down payment" promises of 5,000 fresh forces.

The allies rebuffed U.S. appeals for more combat forces to join the war, but the backing Obama did gain at a European summit allowed him to claim an early victory on the world's foreign policy stage.

NATO allies agreed to send up to 5,000 more military trainers and police to Afghanistan, including forces to help protect candidates and voters at upcoming elections.

Obama called that "a strong down payment" on both Afghanistan and NATO itself at the end of a gathering celebrating the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He waved off questions on whether the size and makeup of the commitments were disappointing in light of an anti-terrorism struggle he himself portrayed as daunting. Since becoming president, Obama has begun switching America's anti-terror emphasis to fighting al-Qaida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area as the war in Iraq winds down.

The new president insisted that "terrorists threaten every member of NATO," but he also said he had no intention of trying to dictate to European countries the scope of their contributions.

"This was not a pledging conference," he told a wrap-up news briefing packed with both American and foreign journalists. "We came expecting consensus and we're gratified getting that consensus."

He said more help of all kinds will be needed. But he also said, "I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy."

Among countries resisting U.S. appeals for more combat troops were France, which on Saturday rejoined the alliance as a full military partner after decades of being a nonmilitary member, and Germany.

Obama weighed in on a controversial new law in Afghanistan, his remarks underscoring his administration's shift away from a U.S. focus on building democracy in the country.

Asked about the law, which a United Nations agency says makes it legal for men to rape their wives, Obama called it "abhorrent." He also noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the law will be studied and possibly sent back to parliament for review — and that the NATO conference's closing statement specifically states that human rights should be respected.

But Obama said pointedly that, while improving conditions in Afghanistan is a commendable goal, people need to remember that the primary reason U.S. troops are fighting there is to protect Americans at home from terrorist attacks.

As for new troops, the White House said NATO countries agreed to send more personnel, including about 3,000 on short-term deployments, to help stabilize Afghanistan before elections in August. An additional 1,400 to 2,000 will provide training for Afghanistan's national army.

Obama said those figures should not be considered a ceiling, suggesting more could be sought and offered at some point to confront a threat that he emphasized endangers Europe as well as the U.S.

"We'll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals," he said.

Obama's national security adviser, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, said the additional training commitments are a crucial piece of the puzzle. As NATO's top military chief from 2003-2006, Jones said he had asked for this to be pursued aggressively but that his requests were always rejected.


Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command and architect of the new military strategy, told Congress that the White House will soon be mulling a request for 10,000 more American troops to be deployed in Afghanistan next year — a blunt acknowledgment that the U.S. will continue to take the brunt of the fighting and casualties.

Still, Petraeus carefully acknowledged that more civilian aid — along the lines of NATO's new commitment emerging from the summit — was also critical.

Along with the divide over troops and money, the Europeans have also long been reluctant to accept the U.S. view that al-Qaida and, to a lesser extent, the Taliban, remain a threat to the existence of democratic societies.

The war in Afghanistan more and more is looking like an American war, and the U.S. will continue to do the bulk of the heavy lifting even with the new NATO pledges. Since Obama took office in January, the United States has committed to sending 21,000 additional troops as part of his new strategy.



Army.ca Fixture
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Hopefully we will all still see the course of this campaign through till victory.


Obama facing hard choices on Afghanistan war plans
    Richard Lardner, Associated Press Writer – 11 mins ago
WASHINGTON – As public support for the war in Afghanistan erodes, President Barack Obama soon may face two equally unattractive choices: increase U.S. troops levels to beat back a resilient enemy, or stick with the 68,000 already committed and risk the political fallout if that's not enough.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is completing an assessment of what he needs to win the fight there. That review, however, won't specifically address force levels, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[color:red]But military officials privately believe McChrystal may ask for as many as 20,000 additional forces to get an increasingly difficult security situation in Afghanistan under control.[/color] And one leading Republican is already saying McChrystal will be pressured to ask for fewer troops than he requires.


Mullen on Sunday described the situation in Afghanistan as "serious and deteriorating," but refused to say whether additional forces would be needed.

"Afghanistan is very vulnerable in terms of (the) Taliban and extremists taking over again, and I don't think that threat's going to go away," he said.

Mullen also expressed concern about diminishing support among a war-weary American public as the U.S. and NATO enter their ninth year of combat and reconstruction operations.