Obama’s Afghanistan speech: five key points

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s Afghanistan speech announced a new, historic chapter for the mission there, announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in the “epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda” but also promising to begin withdrawing those forces within 18 months.

The surge of forces will bring the total American commitment to nearly 100,000. It will be composed of several combat brigades, new trainers and support troops and will be deployed at “the fastest pace possible” to be on the ground and fighting by summer, an onerous task for a military deploying forces to a landlocked country with a crude infrastructure.

The much-anticipated formal announcement of a policy in Afghanistan punctuates three months of soul-searching within the administration and, regardless of the outcome, represents an historical turning point for Afghanistan and the Obama administration.

The most important aspect of the new Afghanistan strategy is that Obama is pledging to begin to end the American commitment there by July 2011. While he said his exit plan is “conditions based,” he is also pledging to begin pulling those forces out.

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” according to Obama’s prepared remarks before an audience of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. “These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Af… >>>

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