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17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

February 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Fulfilling a campaign plan and meeting widespread expectation, President Obama has decided to send about 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, Politico reports.

Obama cited a direct threat to the United States from Al Qaeda as part of the rationale for his decision.

“The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action,” Obama said, announcing the deployment in a written statement. “The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.”

Obama said he approved a request from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring, and an Army Stryker Brigade and the support forces later this summer. He said the upcoming drawdown in Iraq allows him to move more troops into Afghanistan.

Obama has announced a 60-day review of his Afghanistan policy but had to order up these forces sooner because units need to train for their new mission, and commanders want them in place ahead of the traditional fighting season as the weather improves.

This development should come as a surprise to no-one. The security situation in Afghanistan has been going downhill for some time, with the New York Times reporting a40% jump in civilian casualties in 2008. This news follows fast on (but is almost certainly not in reaction to) an opinion piece written today by Major General Jim Molan of Australia, who was chief of operations of the multinational force in Iraq in 2004-05, in which he calls for a major increase in the size of the NATO force in Afghanistan.

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