Obama Gives Troop Orders Before Speech on Afghan War
The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama had issued orders to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, relaying his decision to military leaders late Sunday afternoon during a meeting in the Oval Office.
Obama spent Monday telephoning his foreign counterparts — including the leaders of Britain, France and Russia — informing them of details that he will announce in a nationally televised address on Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, declined to say how many additional U.S. troops Obama had approved, but senior administration officials have said that about 30,000 would be sent in phased deployments over the next 12 to 18 months, bringing the total U.S. presence in Afghanistan to around 100,000.
Gibbs told reporters at the White House that Obama would discuss in the speech how he intends to pay for the plan — a major concern of his Democratic base — and will make clear that he has a time frame for winding down the U.S. involvement in the eight-year-old war. “This is not an open-ended commitment,” Gibbs said.
The administration was sending its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, to Brussels on Tuesday to begin briefing NATO and European allies about the policy. He will be joined at NATO on Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who will brief NATO foreign ministers in his capacity as the top allied commander. While an administration official said Holbrooke would discuss troop requests, he is not expected to make specific requests for nonmilitary aid.
Obama spent much of Monday calling allied leaders. He spoke for 40 minutes with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who signaled that France was not in a position to commit more troops. “He said France would stay at current troop levels for as long as it takes to stabilize Afghanistan,” said an official briefed on the exchange, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private diplomatic exchange. Instead of troops, Sarkozy told Obama that France was putting its focus on a conference in London sponsored by Germany and Britain to rally support for Afghanistan, said officials here and in France.
The French newspaper Le Monde, citing diplomatic sources, reported Monday that Clinton had asked Sarkozy last week to send an additional 1,500 troops to Afghanistan, to supplement the 3,750 French soldiers and 150 police officers now there.
But the French defense minister, Herve Morin, publicly confirmed the French position on Monday, saying “there is no question for now of raising numbers.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain said Monday that Britain would send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan in early December, raising the number of British troops there to 10,000. The announcement was closely coordinated between the governments in London and Washington, the two largest troop providers in the 43-nation coalition fighting in Afghanistan. Brown spoke to Obama by video link after his announcement in the House of Commons.