Interview With the President: Afghanistan Decision and Visits to Dover Air Force Base, Walter Reed

By Lindsey Ellerson

Nov 9, 2009 5:50pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: In an exclusive broadcast interview today with ABC’s Jake Tapper, President Obama said his recent trips to Dover Air Force Base and Walter Reed Army Medical Center have had a profound effect on this war strategy decision in Afghanistan. “It absolutely has an impact because it reminds me of the costs involved,” Mr. Obama said in a sit down interview this afternoon in the Map Room. “It reminds me that — these aren't abstractions.  The decisions that we make in this White House have consequences for our long-term security and they also have consequences for the individuals who are being deployed.” But, the President said his job is to not just think in terms of “one individual or short-term costs” but also what’s required to prevent another terrorist attack, which is what he will ultimately base his decisions on going forward. “Ultimately when I make a decision, it's going to be based on the over arching view of U.S. national security,” Mr. Obama said. “But I think I would be making poorer decisions if I didn't have to look into the eyes of a family member who had lost a loved one and tell them how grateful we are as a nation that — that — that moment, I think, ensures that I'm making the best possible decisions going forward.” The President is currently undergoing a comprehensive review of Afghanistan and Pakistan and will soon make a decision for a war strategy moving forward into the region. This week Mr. Obama will sit down for the eighth time with his National Security team, and the White House says his decision is likely to come in the next couple of weeks. The President is weighing the recommendations from his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who requested sending an additional 40,000 troops into the region. Asked what variables would play into his decision-making that would cause him to not just take McChystal’s recommendation and implement it, the President said today that he’s talking to a wide variety of people, both commanders and civilians, to get the best possible picture of the situation. “I've been asking not only General McChrystal, but all of our commanders who are familiar with the situation, as well as our civilian folks on the ground, a lot of questions that, until they're answered, may — may create a situation in which we resource something based on faulty premises,” Mr. Obama said.  "I want to make sure that we have tested all the assumptions that we're making  before we send young men and women into harm's way, that if we are  sending additional troops that the prospects of a functioning Afghan  government are enhanced, that the prospects of al Qaeda being able to  attack the U.S. Homeland are reduced.” His obligation, the President said is to make sure that “whatever investments we make are leading to a safer United States, are sustainable.” “There are a whole host of those questions that we have worked through systematically.  I have gained confidence that there's not an important question out there that has not been asked and that we haven't asked — that we haven't answered to the best of our abilities. And as a consequence of the process that we've gone to, I feel much more confident that when I issue my orders, that not only do we have a better prospect of success and we are serving our men and women in uniform well, but that we are not also looking at an indefinite stay in — where we have bought, essentially, a — a permanent protectorate of Afghanistan that I think would be unsustainable.” Read more from Jake Tapper's exclusive interview HERE.

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