7 Key Moments from the Speech
#1: U.S. to Send 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan
Obama’s big announcement was his plan to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan—and start pulling them out 18 months later. The reason? “These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
#2: We Are in Afghanistan to Prevent a Cancer from Spreading
Next he laid out the reason for America’s presence in Afghanistan in the first place: “We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.”
#3: The Status Quo Is Not Sustainable
The talking point so nice, he used it twice! Obama stressed the importance of staying in Afghanistan, saying that while "[t]here is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown... the Taliban has gained momentum... In short: The status quo is not sustainable." He later repeated himself slightly, saying that maintaining the number of troops in Afghanistan without adding any more "would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there."
#4: A Timeframe to End the Afghanistan War Is Necessary
Responding, perhaps, to critics like John McCain, Obama defended his timeframe to end the Afghanistan war, saying, “The absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”
#5: Afghanistan Is Not Another Vietnam
Obama then built on that point by reiterating the differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam: “Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.”
#6: Unlike the Great Powers of Old, America Has Not Sought World Domination
In one of the stranger moments of his speech, Obama highlighted America’s responsibility in global affairs by saying that “more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades—a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty. For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression."
#7: There Is a Human Face Behind This War
Finally, it’s easy to forget the individual human faces behind the number 30,000, but Obama stressed that he has not, indeed, forgotten the sacrifices American soldiers have made over the course of this war. “I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. “
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