At his joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama was asked by CBS's Mark Knoller if he can say how many more troops he'll send to Afghanistan, how he'll pay for them, and whether there will be a withdrawal strategy contained in his new plan.
I can tell you, as I've said before that it is in our strategic interest, in our national security interest, that [we make sure] al Qaeda ...cannot operate effectively in those areas...Afghanistan's stability is important to that process...after eight years--some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done--it is my intention to finish the job, and I feel very confident that, when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive...it's going to be very important to recognize that the Afghan people are ultimately going to have to provide for their own security, so we will be discussing that process whereby Afghan security forces are properly trained and equipped to do the job...in order for us to succeed there, you've got to have a comprehensive strategy that includes civilian and diplomatic efforts...
The president didn't necessarily give us a lot to read into: the rooting out of al Qaeda was the first thing he mentioned, which seemed to indicate a scaled-back counterterrorism mission...the "stability" of Afghanistan seemed to indicate a broader, counterinsurgency strategy.
His statement that "I intend to finish the job" stood out as an indication of a strong commitment to the war effort. Those are the same words Republicans used to argue for the war effort in Iraq several years ago, and they're the same words Democrats have used to accuse President Bush of neglecting the war in Afghanistan.
So there was no clear answer from the president, and he touched on points that have been made many times as he's weighed the next phase of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. But the "I intend to finish the job" line probably stood out the most.
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