Obama to detail big troop increase in Afghanistan

(AP) – 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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