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Obama: Taliban and al Qaeda must be stopped
Question of the Day
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, said he was glad the president was turning his attention to “the forgotten war.”
“There is no guarantee of success with this strategy, but not having a strategy, as we have not for the past eight years, is certainly a guarantee of failure,” Mr. Skelton said.
In remarks that could be interpreted as a jab at former President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama promised, “We will not blindly stay the course.”
Mr. Obama cited the grim statistics from the 2001 terrorist attacks, saying more than 3,000 were killed for “doing nothing more than going about their daily lives,” and smacked his podium for emphasis. Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, chairman of grassroots group VoteVets.org, said the move proves Mr. Obama “gets it.”
“The president recognizes that the war against terrorists requires much more than just throwing troops at the problem. That alone will go a long way toward setting policies that make America safer, and taking the burden off our military,” he said, urging the group’s 105,000 members to sign a petition supporting the new plan.
The Washington Times reported key elements of the plan last week, including increased financial aid and helicopters to help Pakistan ferry its troops to remote areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to fight the Taliban and its tribal allies.
Administration officials previewing the speech Thursday night said a key goal is to convince people in Pakistan that the war is not only a U.S. fight, but also their own battle. They said that sense has been lost and that many in the United States consider the fight to be “Bush’s war.”
Members of Congress were briefed Thursday.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, told the Associated Press that the training group is needed because there aren’t enough U.S. military advisers in the region. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told the wire service that it seemed like a viable strategy as long as the manpower is there.
“I know we need more than the 17,000,” he said.
A participant in the Afghanistan-Pakistan review told The Times last week that it makes economic and political sense to build a bigger Afghan army because it costs about $12,000 a year to support one Afghan soldier compared with $250,000 a year for an American.
Administration officials said Thursday night that the administration will lay out benchmarks such as incidents of violence and number of suicide bombings, and would regularly measure to determine whether the strategy was working.
The additional troops will be fully in place by fall. Officials said they hope to have their first evaluation of how the plan is working by the fall or winter.
The goal, the senior administration official said, will be “to disrupt, dismantle and eventually destroy al Qaeda’s safe havens and sanctuaries in Pakistan its infrastructure, its support network and to deprive it from being able to develop such sanctuaries in Afghanistan.”
The president said he wants Afghanistan’s army to reach 134,000 troops and the police force to reach 82,000.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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