President Obama Tuesday said that he would be “shortly” telling the American people how he intends to proceed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that during the Bush administration the US did not have “either the resources or the strategy to get the job done” but it is his “intention to finish the job.”
The president provided a glimpse as to his thinking on priorities in the area by underlining that counterterrorism was the priority.
“It is in our strategic interests, in our national security interests, to make sure that Al Qaida and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively” in the region, the president said. “We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks.”
The president did not that “Afghanistan’s stability is important to that process,” but he did not emphasis nation-building. He made his remarks at an event in the White House’s East Room with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Mr. Obama would not give a date for when he would make his address to the nation to explain his new strategy – sources say it will likely be next Tuesday, December 1, but nothing has been locked in yet – but he said he feels “very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.”
Polls indicate that public support for the president’s handling of Afghanistan is waning, with 48% expressing disapproval of the President’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, 45% expressing approval, in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Accused by Republicans of taking too much time to come to a decision, the president said today that “the review that we’ve gone through has been comprehensive and extremely useful.”
Making note that he was standing with Prime Minister Singh, the president said that the Afghanistan mission is important “not just to the United States, but it’s important to the world.”
“The whole world, I think, has a core security interest in making sure that the kind of extremism and violence that you’ve seen emanating from this region is tackled, confronted in a serious way,” he said, adding that the strategy has to be conducted as “part of a broader international community. And so one of the things I’m going to be discussing is the obligations of our international partners in this process.”
The president is expected to officially ask NATO to provide 5,000-10,000 more troops when NATO leaders convene next month.
Alluding to benchmarks requiring progress for the Afghan government and the training of Afghan security forces that aides say are part of the new strategy, the president also noted that part of the new strategy would “recognize that the Afghan people ultimately are going to have to provide for their own security, and so we’ll be discussing that process whereby Afghan security forces are properly trained and equipped to do the job.”
He added that “it’s going to be important to recognize that, in order for us to succeed there, you’ve got to have a comprehensive strategy that includes civilian and diplomatic efforts.”
The reporter who asked President Obama about his decision teasingly said, “I suspect you don’t want my colleagues and I to rely on leaks until next week,” an allusion to President Obama’s stated irritation about the leaks about his decision-making process.’
“Why stop now?” the president joked.
He added that after Thanksgiving “if there are further questions, that we’ll be answering them to the satisfaction not just of you but to the satisfaction of the American people.”