WASHINGTON, Dec 1: US President Barack Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but plans to conclude the war and withdraw most American troops within three years, White House officials said on Tuesday.
“We came to that determination through a series of deliberations and getting a strategy for how we go forward in Afghanistan,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told CNN when asked why President Obama was sending 10,000 less troops than Gen Stanley McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, wanted.
As a candidate, Mr Obama had described Afghanistan as the war the United States could not afford to lose. As president, he has repeatedly stated his intention to “finish the job” in Afghanistan.
After months of deliberations, Mr Obama is set to unveil his strategy on Tuesday night (1am GMT) in a nationally-televised address at the US Military Academy at West Point.
“What the president will announce tonight, though, is getting an accelerated timeline into Afghanistan so that we can talk about transitioning our forces out of there quickly,” said Mr Gibbs.
On Monday, Mr Obama consulted key US allies, including President Asif Ali Zardari. He also held an hour-long video conference call with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The expected troop surge already caused a rift within Mr Obama’s Democratic Party on Tuesday when a senior lawmaker Jan Schakowsky announced that she was not going to support the new strategy. Congresswoman Schakowsky was one of President Obama’s earliest and most ardent supporters.
“I think he’s made up his mind that at this point there ought to be a troop increase, and I have to say I’m very sceptical about that as a solution,” she said.
The Republicans, on the other hand, attacked his withdrawal plan.
In an interview with Politico.com, former vice-president Dick Cheney described the administration’s focus on an eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan projects as “weakness” which emboldened militant extremists in the country.