There will be 30,000 more American troops in Afghanistan by next summer and the US contingent will start to withdraw from the conflict in 18 months.
Those were the two main pledges outlined in President Obama’s new strategy for fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He put his case to the American people live on television from the prestigious West Point military academy:
“I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
Obama also sought to answer critics who opposed a troop surge, who said Afghanistan was an unwinnable conflict, another Vietnam:
“Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our actions. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency and, most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.”
For eight years the conflict was led by the president’s predecessor, George W. Bush. With this new strategy the war becomes Obama’s. Its success could make or break his reputation as a strong commander-in-chief.