Video: Obama to outline Afghanistan 'endgame'

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama to outline Afghanistan 'endgame'

    >>> begins now.

    >>> good evening. the order went out last night to the u.s. military . over time another 30,000 americans will be heading to afghanistan . tomorrow night, the president using west point instead of the west wing as a backdrop, will explain his decision to the country, the result of months of deliberations. it's as serious as the presidency gets, sending america's treasure to a battlefield overseas. they have all volunteered for duty. now they are part of a growing u.s. military commitment in afghanistan , and it's just one issue after all of this white house is dealing with. our chief white house correspondent chuck todd will start us off tonight. chuck, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. while the president's own chief of staff calls this an historic week in what's already an historic year. the president is attempting to tackle two issues that have undone presidencies before, war and the economy. and it begins tomorrow night at west point when the president unveils his plan for the war in afghanistan . the president's decision more than doubles the number of troops in afghanistan when he took office ten months ago. at an oval office meet late sunday afternoon, the president officially gave military orders to top military commanders to send approximately 30,000 more u.s. troops to afghanistan . that brings the total to more than 100,000 troops. when he took office, there were fewer than 40,000.

    >> nobody should underestimate the commitment of a president that has thus far doubled the number of american men and women on the ground in afghanistan .

    >> reporter: in a 30 to 40-minute primetime address tuesday night, the president will explain, the mission, it remains unchanged. to dismantle and destroy al qaeda and prevent the taliban from creating a safe haven in the afghanistan /pakistan region. the end game -- specifically, what benchmarks the pakistan and afghanistan governments have to meet, including ramping up afghan forces so u.s. forces can stand down. and the costs -- aides say he won't avoid the details though how hard it is to find the $30 billion to fund this surge. mr. obama in an nbc interview two weeks ago --

    >> this decision, will it be the decision that ultimately enz the war?

    >> this decision will put us on a path towards ending the war.

    >> reporter: the president's challenge is to reassure the public the war will end soon, while reassuring the world that the u.s. won't leave afghanistan too soon.

    >> i'm not sure you can square that circle. the real question here is whether his plan will work, and more than that, whether his plan will work fast enough.

    >> reporter: meanwhile, the rest of the president's week is an attempt to zmon straight to the public he's focused on the growing unemployment problem so he's organizing a day-long job summit for thursday.

    >> this is a double barrel week. it is the two biggest challenges he's facing, the war in afghanistan and a job situation that just won't go away.

    >> reporter: brian, beyond selling this war to a skeptical public, he also has to explain how he's going to pay for this war. expect secretaries gates and clinton, when they head to capitol hill on wednesday and thursday, to get an earful from members of congress who want to know where are you going to find this $30 billion?

    >> chuck todd , starting us off on this monday night at the white house . chuck, thanks.

    >>> the president, again, will address the nation from west point tomorrow night, 8:00 eastern time , 5:00 pacific time . of course, we'll be carrying it live here on this nbc station.

    >>> police in washington state are

updated 11/30/2009 8:14:46 PM ET 2009-12-01T01:14:46

After months of debate, President Barack Obama will spell out a costly Afghanistan war expansion to a skeptical public Tuesday night, coupling an infusion of as many as 35,000 more troops with a vow that there will be no endless U.S. commitment. His first orders have already been made: at least one group of Marines who will be in place by Christmas.

Obama has said that he prefers "not to hand off anything to the next president" and that his strategy will "put us on a path toward ending the war." But he doesn't plan to give any more exact timetable than that Tuesday night.

The president will end his 92-day review of the war with a nationally broadcast address in which he will lay out his revamped strategy from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He spent part of Monday briefing foreign allies in a series of private meetings and phone calls.

Before Obama's call to Britain's Gordon Brown, the prime minister announced that 500 more U.K. troops would arrive in southern Afghanistan next month — making a British total of about 10,000 in the country. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose nation has more than 3,000 in Afghanistan, said French troops would stay "as long as necessary" to stabilize the country.

Thousands of troops
Obama's war escalation includes sending 30,000 to 35,000 more American forces into Afghanistan in a graduated deployment over the next year, on top of the 71,000 already there. There also will be a fresh focus on training Afghan forces to take over the fight and allow the Americans to leave.

He also will deliver a deeper explanation of why he believes the U.S. must continue to fight more than eight years after the war was started following the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists based in Afghanistan. He will emphasize that Afghan security forces need more time, more schooling and more U.S. combat backup to be up to the job on their own, and he will make tougher demands on the governments of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

"This is not an open-ended commitment," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "We are there to partner with the Afghans, to train the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police so that they can provide security for their country and wage a battle against an unpopular insurgency."

On a few of the bigger questions most on the minds of increasingly restive members of Congress and the public, such as how much the additional $30 billion to $35 billion cost will balloon the already skyrocketed federal deficit, how long the U.S. commitment will continue and how it will wind down, Obama was expected to make references without offering specifics.

Gibbs said detailed discussions on costs would be held later with lawmakers.

Orders given Sunday
Even before explaining his decision, Obama told the military to begin executing the force increases. The commander in chief gave the deployment orders Sunday night, during an Oval Office meeting in which he told key military and White House advisers of his final decision.

At least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Obama's announcement and will be in Afghanistan by Christmas, military officials said. Larger deployments will begin early next year.

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The initial infusion is a recognition by the administration that something tangible needs to happen quickly, officials said. The immediate addition of Marines will provide badly needed reinforcements for those fighting against Taliban gains in the southern Helmand province, and also could lend reassurance to both Afghans and a war-weary U.S. public.

Obama's overall review was launched Aug. 31, when Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the newly minted top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, delivered to Pentagon brass his assessment of the situation on the ground and what was needed to turn it around. McChrystal produced a separate resource request, first seen by Obama on Oct. 1. The president's review was anchored by 10 extensive war council meetings, starting on Sept. 13, that featured a debate between a counterinsurgency strategy focused on protecting the local population and building up the Afghanistan government or a more limited counterterrorism strategy.

The final product is neither, though it leans more toward counterinsurgency.

Accused of ‘dithering’
The length of the process drew sharp barbs. Less than two months in, Vice President Dick Cheney accused Obama of "dithering," beginning a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans. The White House shot back that the administration Cheney helped lead had given inordinate attention to Iraq while turning its back on Afghanistan.

But with U.S. casualties in Afghanistan sharply increasing and little sign of progress, the war Obama once liked to call one "of necessity," not choice, has grown less popular with the public and within his own Democratic Party. In recent days, leading Democrats have talked of setting tough conditions on deeper U.S. involvement, or even staging outright opposition.

The displeasure on both sides of the aisle is likely to be on display when congressional hearings on Obama's strategy get under way later in the week on Capitol Hill.

Obama spent much of Monday and Tuesday on the phone, outlining his plan — minus many specifics — for the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, India, Denmark, Poland and others. He also met in person at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A briefing for dozens of lawmakers was planned for Tuesday afternoon, just before Obama left for New York to give his speech against a military backdrop.

He also was to call Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari — two leaders on whom the success of the plan will depend heavily.

Rampant corruption
In Afghanistan, rampant government corruption and inefficiency have made U.S. success much harder. Obama was expected to place tough conditions on Karzai's government, along with endorsing a stepped-up training program for the Afghan armed forces in line with recommendations this fall by U.S. trainers.

That schedule would expand the Afghan army to 134,000 troops by next fall, three years earlier than once envisioned.

The president faces a tricker task in talking tough on Pakistan.

Though extremist fighters and al-Qaida leaders are believed to be based in its western region near the border with Afghanistan, public scoldings from Washington can hurt as well as help Pakistani efforts because of pervasive anti-American sentiment. The U.S. cannot send troops into Pakistan, and rarely discusses the anti-terrorist missile strikes conducted inside Pakistan from U.S. drones.

Military officials said the speech is expected to include several references to Iraq, where the United States still has more than 100,000 troops. The strain of maintaining that overseas war machine has stretched the Army and Marine Corps and limited Obama's options.

He is expected to at least implicitly pledge not to return to the worst days of the Iraq war, when the Army was resorted to 15-month tours with little time at home between deployments and when National Guard and reserve troops were subjected to lengthy tours.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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