President Obama has announced he is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and has promised to start withdrawing the American units in July 2011.
In a speech delivered at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama explained that "we must deny al-Qaida a safe haven… reverse the Taliban’s momentum… and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government."
However, he has faced criticism from both Democrats, who disapprove of the troop buildup, as well as Republicans who claim a withdrawal in 18 months is unrealistically short.
Even before the speech, former vice president Dick Cheney told Politico that Obama’s plan risks projecting "weakness." He added that the way the president is framing the debate, the average Afghan citizen "sees talk about exit strategies and how soon we can get out, instead of talk about how we win," quoted by The Washington Post.
Obama’s advisors, including chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, are meanwhile arguing that the buildup is necessary since the insurgency has already gained "dominant influence" in 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
The new deployment will increase the number of U.S. troops in the country to nearly 100,000. According to The Wall Street Journal, the escalation will cost about $30 billion.