Gates Says Afghan Withdrawal Deadline May Be Delayed

"After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home," the president said. "These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan."

Some U.S. troops agree.

"I definitely think that more forces, more U.S. forces coming to Afghanistan, will end up helping us out in the long run and allow us to come home sooner," said U.S. Army soldier Travis Edwards in Kabul.

But even as some U.S. troops prepare to deploy quickly, some are skeptical about the new strategy.

"The war in Afghanistan is really confusing to me," said soldier Brian Transon, from Fort Dunn, N.Y. "And flooding it with 30,000 of our guys, I'm not understanding that too well, but what can I say, Obama is going to do what he's going to do and we are going to go over there and get it done."

Afghanistan 'Moved Backwards' in Recent Years

In his address, Obama laid out a status report on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and noted that while it is not "lost," the nation has "moved backwards" over the last several years because of the Taliban gaining momentum there. The broader goal remains the same, Obama said: disrupting and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and preventing future attacks in the United States.

In order to achieve that goal, the president laid out three key objectives: the military effort to create conditions to transition responsibility to the Afghan security forces; a civilian surge to provide greater security and stability for the Afghan government; and a renewed partnership with Pakistan.

He also made it clear that more troops is not the only answer, that Karzai's government needs to do more to fight corruption and that U.S. resources will be filtered down to local governments and specific ministries.

"The days of providing a blank check are over. ... And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance," the president said. "We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people."

Karzai, in a statement, welcomed the strategy, saying it was "ready for any kind of cooperation."

The Afghan Taliban did release a statement assailing the new strategy.

"There is neither a new point in the Obama's strategy, nor it contains any solution for the Afghan issue," said the statement by the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." "This stratagem will not pay off. The reinforcement will result into (their) fatalities. Similarly, the Afghans, the public of the world particularly, the people of America now know the realities and they are not going to be deceived by Obama's juggling of words."

"The Mujhideen of the Islamic Emirate have worked out a vast strategy and prepared for strong resistance to foil the illegal, anti-Islamic and anti-Afghanistan conspiracies of the internal and external Allies," the statement added. "The Mujahideen have high morale and complete readiness and believe that Obama's new strategy will fail like it did previously. It will face fiasco."

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