By Ian Graham
This evening before an audience of hundreds of students at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., President Barack Obama announced his plans for the future of American operations in Afghanistan.
His new strategy, which calls for 30,000 more American troops as well as asking our NATO allies and non-military organizations like the Department of State to provide more personnel, will focus on targeted counterinsurgency operations and establishing good governance at the local and national levels in Afghanistan.
Speaking to the Pentagon Channel, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, said he “fully and unhesitatingly” supports Obama’s decision. It’s one that was reached after a thorough examination of the situation in central Asia, and after much discussion between military and civilian leaders.
And it’s one, Mullen said, that will work.
“I’m confident we can succeed in this endeavor,” he said. The plan gives Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of operations in Afghanistan, the people he needs to effectively target and uproot insurgent groups in the country, as well as the manpower to teach Afghans how to provide for themselves.
The troops will be primarily be members of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, though the Air Force and Navy will certainly have a role as well, Mullen said.
Mullen said the new strategy has the same end goal as the strategy laid out in March of this year, but the focus is on “reversing the momentum” of insurgent activity and “dramatically increasing” the size and scope of Afghan security forces.
Another key element of the new Afghanistan plan is the inclusion of an transition strategy – one that Mullen said is less a deadline to pull out and more a resolution to help Afghanistan reach self-sufficiency as soon as possible.
While previously there had been concerns that an exit strategy would give insurgents a timeline, in that they only had to hold out until the U.S. exit deadline, Mullen said that isn’t the case here.
What Obama has done is to give a “clear message of resolve” and shows that the “focus is on commitment,” when it comes to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. America doesn’t want its servicemembers there forever, he said, so in the next few years it’s our duty to transfer the responsibility of governance and security to the Afghan people.