Today, President Barack Obama announced the outcome of his sixty-day review of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and the current war.
Obama said that he is going to send an additional 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan–on top of the 17,000 he has already pledged–to the country to “train” Afghanistan security forces. Additionally, more civilians will be sent to the country to engage in reconstruction and reform efforts.
In response to growing criticism of the war, Obama sought to clarify the purpose for the war, saying:
“I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That’s the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just.”
As would be expected when making such an argument, Obama brought up the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the possibility of future terrorist attacks to justify the ongoing military presence in the country.
Obama said that he plans to implement a series of benchmarks to govern U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, but at the present, there were no details as to what those benchmarks would be.
In many ways, the policy Obama is implementing–an escalation with an increase in diplomatic efforts and benchmarks for the government–is quite similar to “the Surge” pursued by President George W. Bush in Iraq.
Obama also said addressing Pakistan will remain a key part of the U.S. strategy. In recent months, this has meant a steady number of attacks inside the country.
Missing from the Announcement: A Timeline for U.S. Withdrawal
In Obama’s comments and his white paper outlining the strategy, he made no mention of a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Obama said he would not “blindly stay the course” if his strategy doesn’t work, but there was no indication of how its success would be measured.