WASHINGTON — Throughout the campaign, Barack Obama made many promises to the American people. Msnbc.com has chosen 14 of these to explain, explore, and track. See if the new president keeps his word, and vote on his progress during the first 100 days.
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First Read: It hasn’t been a fun week in the West Wing, but President Barack Obama insisted Friday that his focus remains on job creation despite Washington’s tendency to get “distracted” by political battles.
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Obama’s words: “I would send two to three additional brigades to Afghanistan. Now, keep in mind that we have four times the number of troops in Iraq, where nobody had anything to do with 9/11 before we went in, where, in fact, there was no al-Qaida before we went in, but we have four times more troops there than we do in Afghanistan.”
The issue: The United States went to war against the Taliban — the one-time ruling body in Afghanistan — on October 7, 2001, less than one month after the Sept. 11 attacks.
At that time, the Taliban was known to be harboring Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.
The U.S. military had little trouble removing Taliban from the capital of Kabul, but rooting them out of more remote areas has proven difficult. The country’s central government has little control over these areas, where a $300 million opium trade helps fund insurgents.
Bin Laden is still widely believed to be hiding in the mountainous region that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Currently, there are about 32,000 U.S. troops and 35,000 allied forces in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama has long argued that former President George W. Bush erred by invading Iraq at a time when the United States had unfinished business in Afghanistan. During the campaign, Obama pledged, that if elected, “We will crush Al-Qaida."
Following through: Even before Obama took office, U.S. military leaders were drawing up plans to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The request was endorsed by the Bush administration and is favored by the Obama White House as well.
The buildup of additional troops in Afghanistan will go hand-in-hand with the drawing down of troops in Iraq — as the U.S. military doesn’t have the numbers to maintain a big presence in two hostile nations.
"Things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they get better," said Obama in a CBS News interview just days before his inauguration. "Pakistan's position on Afghanistan is going to affect our ability to succeed."
In February, Obama signed off on an increase in U.S. forces for the flagging war. The additional 17,000 troops will likely be operational by the summer and will bolster the 33,000 already there.
On March 24, the president said the United States will "stay on the offensive" to dismantle terrorist operations there even as it rethinks its goals in trying to end the seven-year-old war. He has said that a comprehensive strategy — including an exit plan — is key to preventing attacks on the U.S. and its allies.
A few days later, Obama unveiled his full plan for Afghanistan, ordering 4,000 more troops to the country.
Obama said the fresh infusion of U.S. forces is designed to bolster the Afghan army and turn up the heat on terrorists that he said are plotting new attacks against Americans.
The plan takes aim at terrorist havens in Pakistan and challenges the government there and in Afghanistan to show more results.
At April's NATO summit in Europe, Obama asked allies for help but didn't get significant new commitments of combat troops.
The summit's co-hosts, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both were quick to offer support for Obama's new Afghan strategy, but went no further.
"We totally endorse and support America's new strategy in Afghanistan," Sarkozy said a joint news conference with Obama after they met.
After her own talks with the president later in the afternoon, Merkel said: "We have a great responsibility here. We want to carry our share of the responsibility militarily — in the area of civil reconstruction and in police training."
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