Washington/Kabul: President Barack Obama plans to send about 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan over six months, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, in a war strategy shift he hopes will defeat the Taliban and permit a US exit.
After three months of deliberations that some critics called dithering, Obama is to lay out his plan in a televised speech to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York at 8 p.m. EST/(0100 GMT Wednesday).
Obama’s decision to deploy the additional troops over a six-month period represents an acceleration of his long-awaited new strategy for Afghanistan. Pentagon officials had expected a phased troop buildup over the next 12 to 18 months.
The decision to send more troops, which Obama has already conveyed to commanders, represents a major gamble.
The Democratic president took office vowing a greater focus on Afghanistan but has faced skepticism from some aides about the wisdom of putting more US lives and money on the line in the war, given that the government in Kabul is widely seen as corrupt and inept.
Obama plans to stress that Washington does not have an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan, eight years after US-led forces toppled the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda militants blamed for the 11 September 2001, attacks.
His challenge is to reverse what US military commanders call a deteriorating situation due to a resurgent Taliban.
“We’re going to accelerate going after al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we’re going to accelerate the training of an Afghan security force, the police and an army, because we want to as quickly as possible transition the security of the Afghan people over to those national security forces in Afghanistan,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on CBS.
Obama also aims to persuade Afghan president Hamid Karzai to crack down on corruption in return for support. Washington has had a fraught relationship with Karzai since Obama took office, made worse since the international community spent some $250 million to help hold an election in August, only to be embarrassed by massive fraud in Karzai’s favor.
Obama had a teleconference with Karzai early on Tuesday and made the point that Afghanistan must turn a new page. “They have to address their problems in governance. They have to address corruption,” Gibbs said on MSNBC.
Obama is also expected to stress the need for neighboring Pakistan to do more to fight militants who have crossed into Afghanistan. The administration has said getting the policy right in Islamabad is just as important as in Kabul.