Obama near decision on deploying nearly 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to add tens of thousands more forces to Afghanistan, though likely not quite the 40,000 sought by his top general there, as Pentagon planners work to ready bases and provide equipment the troops would need in a country with scant resources.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to add tens of thousands more forces to Afghanistan, though likely not quite the 40,000 sought by his top general there, as Pentagon planners work to ready bases and provide equipment the troops would need in a country with scant resources.

The White House emphasized Monday that the president hasn’t made a decision yet about troop levels or other aspects of the revised U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Administration officials told The Associated Press on Monday the deployment would most likely begin in January with a mission to stiffen the defence of 10 key cities and towns. An Army brigade that had been training for deployment to Iraq that month may be the vanguard. The brigade, based at Fort Drum in upstate New York, has been told it will not go to Iraq as planned but has been given no new mission yet.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would meet again on Wednesday with key members of his foreign policy and military team but was unlikely to announce final plans for Afghanistan until late this month, when he returns from an extended diplomatic trip to Asia.

Gibbs said the Pentagon is “working on additional recommendations” to present to Obama and that Obama has made no decision on troop numbers, or even on what the ratio should be between combat troops and trainers.

Military officials said Obama will have choices that include a phased addition of up to 40,000 troops over some six months or more next year, based on security conditions and the decisions of NATO allies.

Several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made also said Obama’s announcement will be much broader than the mathematics of troop numbers, which have dominated the U.S. debate.

Officials said a substantial increase in troops is all but inevitable, but the precise number is less important than the message that an expansion and refocus of U.S. commitment in Afghanistan would send.

It soon will be three months since Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal reported to Obama that the U.S. mission was headed for failure without the addition of about 40,000 troops.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because final plans have not been disclosed, dubbed the likely troop increase as “McChrystal Light” because it would fall short of his request. They also said additional small infusions of troops could be dispatched next spring and summer.

The more gradual buildup, the officials said, would allow time to construct needed housing and add equipment needed for transporting the expanded force.

Besides being sent to cities and towns, the new forces would be stationed to protect important roads and other key infrastructure.

Part of the debate leading to Obama’s decision has been whether to move toward a more robust counterinsurgency strategy by attempting to retake territory from the Taliban and holding that turf while Americans work to rebuild and improve services for the population.

By using the new troops to protect cities and towns, the administration appears to be moving toward a middle ground that would deny Taliban advances on urban districts with the intention of shoring up support for the government of President Hamid Karzai.

That in turn would allow the fight against the Taliban then to expand to remoter regions.

“Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false,” said the president’s national security adviser, James Jones. “He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.”

As he makes his decision, Obama told ABC News that he’s been “asking not only Gen. McChrystal but all of our commanders who are familiar with the situation, as well as our civilian folks on the ground, a lot of questions that, until they’re answered, may — may create a situation in which we resource something based on faulty premises.”

He said he wanted to make sure “that if we are sending additional troops that the prospects of a functioning Afghan government are enhanced, that the prospects of al-Qaida being able to attack the U.S. homeland are reduced.”

With winter coming to Afghanistan’s towering mountains, fighting could taper off as movement becomes difficult along the border with Pakistan. The Taliban has used the winter lull to resupply and regroup in years past, and the U.S. and a NATO-led alliance of countries fighting in Afghanistan are planning how to best place reinforcements for heavy fighting in the spring.

Obama has said the United States wants to leave behind an Afghan government that can control the Taliban insurgency on its own and prevent the militants from again hosting al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden and his top aides are believed to have fled into the rugged Pakistan border area where they have been hiding since the U.S. drove the Taliban from power in late 2001.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a media availability in Ottawa on November 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals told to think beyond child care in work to craft ‘shecession’ recovery plan

Liberals told to think beyond child care in work to craft ‘shecession’ recovery plan

A helicopter passes over excavation equipment at the Mary River exploration camp, the site of a proposed expansion to an iron mine on northern Baffin Island, on August 17, 2006. The board of the organization that represents Inuit in Nunavut's Baffin Island region says it does not support the proposed expansionnear Pond Inlet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vinne Karetak
Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

A couple walks past a vandalized mural depicting world's first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 8, 2021. At least two street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science have appeared covered in black paint over the weekend. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis following protests near the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

This image provided by The Alexandria (Va.) Sheriff's Office shows Jacob Chansley. A judge ordered corrections authorities to provide organic food to the Arizona man who is accused of participating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns. He was moved from the Washington jail to the Virginia facility. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)
Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Most Read