Obama unveils his controversial plan on Afghanistan
US President Obama has unveiled his future strategy for Afghanistan in a keynote address at the West Point Military Academy in New York. 30,000 more troops will be deployed, almost doubling the numbers there already.
“It is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 troops,” he said.
The total number of American troops in the region will now be over 100,000.
The most recent estimates suggest $1 million are spent per soldier per year in Afghanistan. All that cash will be injected into warfare when millions of Americans live without jobs and homes.
But Barack Obama says he is sure of his decision: “I refuse to go beyond goals that would go beyond our means”.
In a speech that echoed the one made by Bush just before kicking off the war in Iraq – only lasting almost twice as long – Barack Obama has outlined the key steps: fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and strengthening Afghanistan’s Government and security forces.
Obama plans to escalate the war to the fastest possible pace, but he has also announced a withdrawal. According to Obama, the US could begin pulling out as early as the middle of 2011.
The efforts of Obama's administration will now be focused on getting the new plans through Congress. Hearings on the new Afghan strategy began on Wednesday.
The President's decision has so far failed to garner much political support, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing grave doubts about the increase in troops.
Meanwhile, around the world there has been a mixed reaction to Obama's plan. NATO says “It's not just America's war,” while the Taliban is vowing to step up its resistance.
Some in the US are also skeptical Obama’s new strategy will work.
Radio host Thom Hartmann sees the move as “terrible”.
“You have a nation that has an overall literacy rate of about 10 percent, you can't conquer a nation like that. You can't deal with a nation like that militarily. I think he is making a terrible mistake,” Hartmann says.
American journalist Jerry Mazza sees the plan as pointless.
“They want to diminish the power of the Taliban, of the insurgency. These guys are not going to go anywhere – they live there! I think it’s insane, quite honestly. As a parent – to know those guys are there to begin with, and that they are sending more of these young people there…” Mazza says.
Financial analyst Max Wolff says nothing is new and the plan is just more of the same.
“We are looking at a $33 billion per year increase. If we are looking at 3 years, we will be seeing $100 billion spending,” Wolff says adding, “Keeping doing the same thing and expect a different outcome – is Einstein’s definition of insanity. I’d like to be given a more qualitative assessment of what we are going to do differently”.
The President wasn’t successful in convincing the majority of Americans who elected him a year ago that the war was necessary and affordable, said Jake Diliberto, an Afghan war veteran and founder of the “Rethink Afghanistan” movement. The plan Obama has sent forward is not going to accomplish the goals he prescribed, Diliberto told RT.
“The reason for that is because an 18-month deployment of 30,000 troops is not a realistic perspective,” Diliberto explained. “It’s going to take these troops at least three months to get comfortable in the country and it’s going to take at least nine months to develop some sort of relationships with Afghan people on the ground.”
Natalia Burlinova from the Historical Perspective Foundation says people need to look beyond the numbers and understand that, in taking this decision, President Obama is keeping in mind the next election.
“Sending more troops to Afghanistan won't bring any crucial changes to the situation in the region. It may help to stabilize, but only until the pullout date that Obama has declared. We have to understand his decision was political,” Burlinova said. “The Afghan issue has split the US establishment, some urging the president to deploy more force, others against. Obama has tried to please both sides, which means he's thinking of the next election. So by that time he'll be able to tell voters: 'I did bring stability to Afghanistan, we're pulling out, so you can vote for me again'.”
Some even say escalating the Afghan war is the biggest decision of the Obama presidency so far. And the pull out date is seen as a sales pitch by many, like Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh.
“I don't give his message about a withdrawal strategy any kind of credence, because we've heard this kind of propaganda before,” Kokesh says.