President Obama: U.S. Troops to Afghanistan at 'Fastest Pace Possible'

"As president, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars," he said. "I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place.

"I see firsthand the terrible wages of war," he said. "If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow."

Obama said his administration is moving forward "with the full recognition" that success in Afghanistan is "inextricably linked" to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and the new strategy must work "on both sides of the border."

Obama said that his administration is committed to a partnership with Pakistan built on "mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust."

But Pakistan must do its part too, Obama said.

"We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed."

Obama touted this new strategy as an "international effort" with contributions from allies.

"Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully," he said. "For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility -- what's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world."

Obama was joined on Air Force One for the flight to New York by several members of his national security team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, Chief of U.S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The president's audience at West Point was composed of around 4,200 cadets, West Point leadership, family members of cadets and members of the local community.

"There's going to be an initiative of Afghans taking responsibility in certain geographic areas, certainly during this term," an official told ABC News, adding that will allow a "thinning out" of the estimated 100,000 U.S. troops in the country "by the end of the president's first term."

It is not just the number of troops that will increase. There are expected to be close to 1,000 U.S. civilian personnel in Afghanistan by the first quarter of 2010, up from 320 currently, according to the official, to accomplish the civilian strategy goals of this plan.

Obama Has Tough Message for Afghan President Karzai

While the president laid out how the Taliban and al Qaeda have created instability in Afghanistan, he also noted that the elected government there has been "hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces."

Obama had a tough message for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government tonight: "The days of providing a blank check are over."

"President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction," he said. "And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance."

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