Kansas City Star, Dec. 2: Saying that fighting extremism in Afghanistan is vital to American national security, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the rapid deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops. But what mattered most in the president’s nationally televised speech from West Point was that he clearly defined the mission and the exit strategy for a conflict that he rightly described as having drifted for the past several years.
While Obama’s strategy is sound, his timeline will require an amazing amount of work and more than a little good luck.
The Washington Post, Dec. 2: Mr. Obama’s troop decision is both correct and courageous: correct because it is the only way to prevent a defeat that would endanger this country and its vital interests; and courageous because he is embarking on a difficult and costly mission that is opposed by a large part of his own party. Importantly, the president did not set an end date or a timetable for the mission beyond July 2011; the pace of extracting U.S. forces will depend on developments on the ground.
His months of deliberation appear to have given him a very specific – and perhaps overly narrow – vision of what the United States will and will not seek to accomplish. Defeating al-Qaida was the only goal to which Mr. Obama expressed an unambiguous commitment. While “we will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul,” he said, it “will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.”
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 2: Even as President Obama announced an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he focused on plans for getting out. At the same time that he ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines to the front, he said he would start bringing them home in July 2011. And while assuring neighboring Pakistan of America’s long-term commitment to South Asia, he also sought to reassure Americans that there are limits to U.S. military involvement in the region.
We appreciate the president’s rhetorical prowess. Tuesday’s speech was clear and cogent. Yet we can’t help but wonder if he will be able to keep so many seemingly contradictory promises made to so many different audiences.