The centerpiece of the president’s plan is widely reported to be the deployment of tens of thousands of more American troops. The Washington Post reports the number to be 34,000 troops, while the New York Times reports 30,000. The deployment would bring the total U.S. force in Afghanistan to approximately 100,000.
With eight U.S. allies prepared to commit some 5,000 additional troops as well, the final number of new forces that will head to Afghanistan in the coming weeks will come close to 40,000 troops, the preferred option of the top U.S. commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Most troops will likely head straight to Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south of Afghanistan, both Taliban strongholds.
President Obama is not expected to lay out a firm date for the end of the mission in Afghanistan, as the United States has done in Iraq. He will, however, reportedly spell out specific benchmarks to measure success, as Eric Schmitt of the New York Times told the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez Monday night. Among those benchmarks will be the establishment of anti-corruption tribunals, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“This will be both for the government of Afghanistan and for the government of Pakistan,” Schmitt said. “Both these countries, the administration feels, need to step up and do more, more for their own security in the long term, so that, eventually, the American commitment there in Afghanistan can wind down.”
The president presented his plan to top advisors on Sunday, and then to close foreign allies on Monday. President Obama briefed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the new strategy on Tuesday morning during an hour-long video conference, The Associated Press reported.
The president will deliver his address to the nation Tuesday night at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the same venue where former President George W. Bush first introduced what came to be known as the “Bush doctrine” of preemptive military action in 2002.
Before leaving for West Point, President Obama will meet with more than two dozen congressional leaders to discuss the plan. With polls showing public support for the Afghan war effort falling, the president faces congressional opposition to a surge in Afghanistan, particularly within his own party.
“I am still very nervous about this whole thing,” Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told POLITICO. “If you had 10 years, it might work; if you had five, you could make a difference. But you don’t have that long,” Murtha said.
The administration will also send top officials, including Gen. McChrystal and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to NATO headquarters in Brussels this week to brief allies.