Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Obama speaks

Yesterday (local time) president Obama spoke to cadets at West Point – and through them the nation and the world – to announce his "strategic review" which, his administration would "pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion."

Revisiting the history of the 9/11 attacks, the president then described al-Qaida as "a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents."

Al-Qaida's base of operations, he said, was in Afghanistan, where they were harboured by the Taliban – "a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere."

The wrenching debate over the Iraq War, he continued, is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

The fact the war in Iraq is winding down is "a testament to the character of our men and women in uniform," he then said.

Turning to the decision he made earlier this year to increase the troop numbers in Afghanistan, he told his audience that, since then, we have made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al-Qaida and Taliban leaders had been killed, and we had stepped up the pressure on al-Qaida world-wide.

In Pakistan, that nation's Army had gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and – although it was marred by fraud – that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and Constitution.

"The status quo is not sustainable," Obama added. But, he said, "Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war."

This review is now complete, he said. And as commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. I know that this decision asks even more of you, he said, addressing the military – a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens.

And that was the core ... a military solution to a strategic problem, to which there is no military solution.