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Obama sends 30,000 troops to Afghanistan

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 02 December 2009

President Barack Obama announces plans to boost the US deployment in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000 but says troops will begin to withdraw from the country in 2011.

US marine, Afghanistan (Getty)

The goal is to speed the battle against Taliban insurgents, secure key population centres and train Afghan security forces so they can take over and clear the way for a US exit, Obama said.

The accelerated timetable will see the extra soldiers deployed by next summer.

In the televised address Obama recalled the 2001 September 11 attacks in New York warning that the Afghan mission was crucial to US security.

"I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he told cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Watch Obama's full speech in an interactive Snowcloud here.
Obama's decision comes after the head of the international forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, called for an extra 40,000 troops on the ground. Although the deployment falls short of the number he asked for the General welcomed the decision.

"The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the president has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task," McChrystal said in a statement. Read a General Stanley McChrystal biography here.

Despite the vital commitment of more troops, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan told Channel 4 News that Obama's speech seemed more concerned with ending the war than winning it.

In an article for Channel 4 News online Colonel Richard Kemp wrote about the importance of driving the strategy forward to victory.

"With the resources in place it is now up to President Obama to ensure his strategy works," he wrote. 

"He must prove himself to be an effective war leader by personally driving forward the campaign in Afghanistan to victory. Wars can only be won by determined leadership.

"Where this is not present - such as in Vietnam which suffered neglect by successive presidents - failure inevitably follows."

Read the article in full here.

Since 13 September Obama has spent more than 20 hours debating the decision.

Currently there are 68,000 US troops and 42,000 allied forces already in the country. Since 2001 there has been a steady increase of US soldiers committed. View the list in full here.

The new strategy draws heavily on lessons learned from former President George W. Bush's "surge" in Iraq in 2007 - which Obama opposed as a senator and presidential candidate.

The key to Obama's strategy is training a reliable Afghan army and police force - an area where Bush failed. The strategy focuses on pairing newly-deployed American soldiers with specific Afghan units which will then be trained. The long term aim is to hand over provincial power to the country's forces.

British troop surge

On Monday Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed that Britain would send an extra 500 troops to Afghanistan.

He told the Commons that now three key conditions for increasing troop numbers had been met reinforcements would be sent. The conditions were that soldiers would be properly equipped, that coalition partners would also commit extra troops and that the Afghan government would boost its own security effort.

He said the "military surge" would be complemented by a "political surge" with more Afghan police, a police reform plan and more effective and accountable local administration in the country.

He added that the government would be "failing in our duty" if it did not work with coalition partners to counter the threat posed by the Taliban and al-Qaida and help ensure a "safer Britain".

Brown spoke to Obama via a video call on Monday night in which they "agreed on the importance of combining military and political strategies in Afghanistan, as well as on the need for continued action in Pakistan," a Downing Street spokesman said.

Obama briefed the prime minister on the US troop decision which has already been passed down to senior military commanders.

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