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2009-12-02

More War: Obama Unveils Plan to Send 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan

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President Obama announced Tuesday night that he would send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in the coming months, bringing the total number of American troops occupying Afghanistan to nearly 100,000. Describing the war as "not just America’s war," Obama vowed to start bringing the troops back home by the middle of 2011. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama announced Tuesday night he would send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in the coming months, bringing the total number of American troops occupying Afghanistan to nearly 100,000. Describing the war as, quote, "not just America’s war," Obama vowed to start bringing the troops back home by the middle of 2011. The President gave his long-awaited speech following a three-month review before a crowd of 4,000 cadets at the US Military Academy in West Point.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources.

    If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.

    Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war. Since 9/11, al-Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered.

    The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010, the fastest possible pace, so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They’ll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

    Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.

    Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We’ll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But 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.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama announcing the surge in Afghanistan Tuesday night. He opposed the idea of an open-ended commitment, saying, quote, "America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan." He also took a moment to directly address the Afghan people.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They’ve been confronted with occupation by the Soviet Union and then by foreign al-Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes.

    So, tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand: America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect, to isolate those who destroy, to strengthen those who build, to hasten the day when our troops will leave, and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner and never your patron.

AMY GOODMAN: But that’s not how some Afghan civilians view the troop buildup. Here’s an excerpt of some voices from Afghanistan, courtesy of Brave New Foundation’s "Rethink Afghanistan" project.

    AFGHAN WOMAN 1: Stop this war. And if they really want to help our people, we don’t need more soldiers.

    AFGHAN MAN 1: [translated] We want calmness so that people are at peace and security, brother. Do you understand?

    AFGHAN MAN 2: [translated] The Americans came to keep peace for us. Is this called peace, to drop bombs on people’s homes? Is this called peace, to kill their innocent children? Is this called peace, to leave people weeping and mourning?

    AFGHAN MAN 3: We have war since thirty years. Afghan ordinary people say, "It is enough."

    AFGHAN WOMAN 2: I would like him to reconsider his policies towards Afghanistan. Stop thinking militarization of the whole process in the country.

    AFGHAN WOMAN 3: I’d like to say to him, "Listen to the Afghan people."

AMY GOODMAN: A sampling of Afghan voices opposed to the escalation.

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