President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux.
The White House said Mr. Obama had completed his consultations with his war council on Monday night and would formally announce his decision in a national address in the next week, probably on Tuesday.
At a news conference in the East Room with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Mr. Obama suggested that his approach would break from the policies he had inherited from the Bush administration and said that the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.
“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,” he said.
He said that he would outline his Afghanistan strategy after Thanksgiving, adding, “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.”
Mr. Obama was silent on what "finish the job" entailed, nor did he offer any details on what benchmarks he and his advisers had drawn up. He also did not provide a target date for finishing the war.
According to the Washington Post, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Democrats face "serious unrest" over possible expansion of the war in Afghanistan:
Pelosi, in a conference call with economists, said House Democrats were concerned about the "opportunity costs" of steering billions of dollars toward the troop increase as compared to "our ability to invest domestically with an eye to fiscal soundness." The issue of financing new troops in the region has come to a head in advance of Obama’s decision, to be announced next week, as a handful of senior Democrats have proposed a "war tax" on the nation’s wealthiest wage earners and some corporations to finance the war.
Pelosi deflected questions about her support for such a tax-hike proposal but noted that an expensive new war plan faces very high hurdles in her 258-member Democratic caucus, about two-thirds of whom were largely opposed to the Bush administration’s 2007 "surge" of troops into Iraq and have voiced doubts about increased troop levels in Afghanistan.
"Let me say that there is serious unrest in our caucus about, can we afford this war?" Pelosi said in a Tuesday morning call, just hours before she met Obama in a closed-door meeting at the White House.
With an economy struggling to recover, the bottom line is crucial here. Are Americans ready to sacrifice more than they already have? Would Americans support a "war tax," even if it was only on the "wealthiest wage earners," while Congress works to stitch together a health care reform bill?