Obama Authorizes Troop Increase in Afghanistan

Feb 17, 2009 5:35pm

President Obama has authorized an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan, ordering 17,000 more troops plus support personnel into the country.

Calling the solution “urgent,” President Obama said that there “is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm’s way,” but he ordered the move, “mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action.” The president warned of resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda threatening America from safe-havens along the Pakistani border.

Obama communicated his decision to the Pentagon yesterday, and signed the official order today. The increase had been requested by General McKiernan and supported by Secretary Gates, the Joint Chiefs and the Commander of the Central Command.

President Obama said the United States’ draw-down of forces in Iraq allows “flexibility” in Afghanistan, where the increase is necessary "to stabilize a deteriorating situation,” which he says has not received adequate attention.

The White House has yet to release their comprehensive strategic review of Afghanistan, and President Obama said that his decision does not “pre-determine the outcome” of that full review.

“Instead, it will further enable our team to put together a comprehensive strategy that will employ all elements of our national power to fulfill achievable goals in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “As we develop our new strategic goals, we will do so in concert with our friends and allies as together we seek the resources necessary to succeed.”

Obama’s request calls for the deployment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to begin deploying in April or May of this year. This will add 8,000 troops to the 2,000 already on the ground, who will be incorporated into a larger unit. When it’s their time for them to return, the troops will be replaced by another marine unit, bringing the total marine force in Afghanistan to 10,000. The president’s request will also deploy a Stryker Brigade of 4,000 troops in the summer. The unit is based at Fort Lewis, Washington.

The move by the president makes good on his campaign pledge, in which he spoke repeatedly about the need for more troops to address the situation in Afghanistan adequately.

– Jake Tapper, Luis Martinez and Sunlen Miller

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