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Dec 16th, 2010

Obama: U.S. ‘On Track’ to Achieve Afghan Goals

U.S. forces plan to start leaving Afghanistan in July 2011, report says


Obama administration unveils state of war report (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 16, 2010) — One year after President Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to fight in Afghanistan the administration has a new assessment touting progress in that war, but with plenty of caveats. NBC’s White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie reports. (02:41)

Reuters and The Associated Press via
Dec. 16, 2010

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Thursday that the United States is “on track to achieve its goals in Afghanistan” but that the gains in many areas are fragile and reversible.

Obama said the United States is on course to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops next July, as he introduced a new, classified assessment of the Afghanistan war. …

A five-page unclassified summary of the White House review said U.S. and NATO forces had made “notable operational gains,” halting the Taliban’s momentum in many areas and disrupting al Qaeda. But it stressed the gains were fragile and reversible and that major challenges remained.

It reported substantial but uneven progress in the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, whose lawless tribal areas are widely seen as the main obstacle to Obama’s strategy succeeding because of the relatively free flow of militants across the border into Afghanistan. …

All the findings of the report will be tested in the months and years to come. They form the basis not just of Obama’s war strategy but also his credibility with the American people on how this long, costly war is going — and when it will end.

The United States and its NATO allies hope to turn control of the Afghanistan conflict to that nation’s own forces by the end of 2014, a timeline endorsed in the new review. Even then, Obama envisions an enduring U.S. role in Afghanistan.

The most promising conclusions are that the senior leadership of al-Qaida in Pakistan is at it weakest since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — and that the Taliban, a constant source of violence and instability in Afghanistan, has seen much of its power halted and reversed over the last 12 months. …

Obama, inheriting a war he considered adrift but vital to American security, ordered a heightened U.S. presence and a renewed commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s development. There are now roughly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as 40,000 from NATO allies. …

The review says progress is most clear in the way Afghan and coalition forces are “clearing the Taliban heartland” in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, and in the boosted size and capability of Afghanistan’s security forces. …

There were no direct references to the corruption that plagues Afghanistan’s government [link added] or the fractured relationship between the Obama administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. …

As plotting of terrorism against the United States continues, the defeat of al-Qaida will be best achieved by forcefully destroying the group’s sanctuaries and killings its leaders, the report says. Throughout, however, the report calls for sustained U.S. help in developing Afghanistan and Pakistan for its people, not just waging a military campaign.

This year has been the deadliest in the war for U.S. forces. At least 480 American troops have been killed in 2010, and more than 2,100 have died since the conflict began in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

The review took place over the last two months, led by Obama’s national security staff, with input from across government agencies and from commanders in the war zones.

Separately, new U.S. national intelligence estimates of Afghanistan and Pakistan [link added] paint bleak pictures of security conditions inside Afghanistan and of Pakistan’s willingness to rout militants on its side of the border, according to several U.S. officials briefed on both reports. U.S. military commanders have challenged the conclusions, saying they are based on outdated information that does not take into account progress made over this past fall.


Related reports on this site


Afghanistan: On track to nowhere? (MSNBC “Morning Joe,” Dec. 16, 2010 ) — Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post joins Joe Scarborough to discuss the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, and possibilities for the future of the conflict. (03:39)

Afghanistan War Strategy Review (Oct. 3, 2009)

Afghanistan — Obama’s Vietnam? (Feb. 3, 2009)

Image: U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
Soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Combat Brigade 10th Mountain Division, based out of Fort Drum, N.Y., evacuate a wounded comrade in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. (Photo credit: David Goldman / AP)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 16, 2009

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties

One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Cpl. Xhacob Latorre, 21, Waterbury, Conn., died Dec. 8, 2009 at a Texas hospital of wounds sustained Aug. 10 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he lost both legs after being struck by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 16, 2008 (#1)

Arabs Hail Bush Shoe-Thrower

Image: Iraqis protest in Sadr City
A shoe is raised during a protest against President George W. Bush’s visit to Iraq and the detention of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at him, in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday, Dec. 15, 2008. (Photo credit: Karim Kadim / AP)

Two years ago today, on Dec. 16, 2008 I reported that thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the U.S. president upon leaving office.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 16, 2008 (#2)

Ottis Toole Murdered Adam Walsh

Ottis Toole, a drifter and convicted pedophile, confessed twice, recanted twice and died in prison.

Two years ago today, in a second post for the day, I also reported breaking news that Ottis Toole, a serial killer who died more than a decade ago, had been identified by Florida police as the person who likely decapitated the 6-year-old son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh in 1981. The announcement brought to a close a case that has haunted the Walsh family for more than two decades, launched the television show about the nation’s most notorious criminals, and inspired changes in how authorities search for missing children.

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