After the U.S. strategy on Afghanistan was outlined in a speech on Tuesday night, Obama's blueprint faced tough questions from Congress on Wednesday. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill sharply criticized Obama's plan to start a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to testify and take questions as they try to promote the plan to Congress. Later in the day, the trio also appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressional hearings are used to evaluate or explore a topic, providing testimony and research about current issues.
Some U.S. troops in Afghanistan gathered at 5:30 a.m. local time Wednesday to watch President Obama's speech live. They heard they'll get the company of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops from their commander-in-chief in his address, as well as the goal of starting to bring forces home by summer 2011.
Washington (CNN) – The July 2011 date was barely uttered when critics pounced, questioning whether the president was trying to make a political point at the expense of military security.
"These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," President Obama said in his West Point address.
Just minutes after the speech was done, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who supports the increase in troops, said setting a deadline to begin a withdrawal is wrong.
"What concerns me greatly is the president's decision to set an arbitrary date to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan," McCain said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
The administration worked hard Wednesday to defend that target date, stressing that it is only the beginning of a potential transfer of security to Afghans and that it will ultimately be decided based on conditions on the ground.
So how and why did the administration come up with a target date? FULL POST
After President Obama's war strategy announcment, Gen. Stanley McChrystal addressed troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Speaking in the southern city of Kandahar, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the emphasis will be in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have a strong presence in places like Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.
"This is the culmination of some of those changes that have already started but with the decision announced by President Obama and with many of the coalition partners indicating the the same intent, what we're going to do now is be in tremendous position to go forward. ... I have exceptional confidence right now."
A round-up of news and commentaries from CNN as well as other media and Web sites.
The New York Times reports that efforts are underway to expand operations in Pakistan as well.
“Mr. Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well — if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms,” write the Times’ David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to lay out his perspective on the Afghan war. “The answer is a political surge, in conjunction with the additional troops requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Quitting is not an option,” he writes.
Jon Meacham of Newsweek magazine writes that Tuesday’s speech contained the “opening notes of an Obama doctrine.”
“I think historians in search of the president’s vision not only of America’s role in the world but of America itself—at home and abroad—will long look to the final few paragraphs of Tuesday night’s address,” he writes.
Some perspectives on Obama’s speech:
- Ed Rollins (CNN.com): "Obama's plan shows leadership"
- Thomas Friedman (New York Times): “This I believe”
- Gabor Steingart (Der Spiegel): “Searching in vain for the Obama magic”
- David Corn (Mother Jones): “The Obama surge”
- Rich Lowry (New York Post): “A sinking feeling”
- Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic): “The morning after”
- David Ignatius (Washington Post, registration required): "Surge, then leave"
- Fred Kaplan (Slate): “Obama’s war begins”
- Editorial board of Globe and Mail: "A welcome move by Obama"
- Editorial board of the Toronto Star: "Obama's risky Afghan surge"
President Obama's plan for U.S. strategy in Afghanistan made headlines in the local media in Afghanistan - but it certainly wasn't the only headline. Take a look at some of the top stories and editorials in Afghan media on Tuesday, compiled from a U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan report.
Hasht-e-Subh Daily editorial: Referring to the United States’ new strategy on Afghanistan, the editorial suggests that President Obama should also include in that strategy the entire Afghan people, and not just a handful of influential people and powerful warlords as President Karzai does.
Weesa Daily editorial: Considering the fact that international troops’ military operations have brought considerable civilian casualties, it is expected that the public will, on the basis of their national feelings, now give more of their support to the Afghan National Army, just in case the international troops start withdrawing. FULL POST
What's interesting here is many Afghans don't know what President Obama said - they're not going to know until tonight's evening newscast.
Even the days leading to President Obama's primetime address, I asked Afghans if they're going to watch, and they said no, it's not worth getting up early in the morning to watch because they said they heard the promises before. They have yet to see tangible actions being made. FULL POST
Before his speech began on Tuesday, President Obama acknowledges the crowd of West Point cadets in New York.