March 29th, 2009
12:54 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama warns of limit to Afghan troop commitment

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The president was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday when he announced his strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama warned Sunday that while his administration is now increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, America's military commitment to the troubled Islamic republic would not be open-ended.

"It's not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources. We've just got to make sure that we are focused on achieving what we need," Obama said during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Friday, Obama announced plans to send another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, along with hundreds of civilian specialists, such as agricultural experts, educators and engineers. The fresh troops are in addition to another 17,000 the president announced earlier would be sent to Afghanistan, and will be charged with training and building the Afghan army and police force.

"What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always results in an improved situation," the president said.

"Just because we needed to ramp up from the greatly under-resourced levels that we had doesn't automatically mean that if this strategy doesn't work, that what's needed is even more troops. There may be a point of diminishing returns in terms of troop levels."

Obama also indicated that while previous U.S. pledges to foster a more open, democratic regime in Afghanistan would not be abandoned, they would take a back seat to a mission more "narrowly targeted on defeating al Qaeda."

"The focus over the last seven years I think has been lost," Obama said. "What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are going to make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world."

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. lady in the know

    Boy, he makes me feel safe. It is very upsetting that he is so interested in keeping his "image" intact that he will put this country in danger. And the fact that he has NO military experience is of more concern. How can he say what we will and won't do in the future? Does he have a crystal ball? I would think the smarter approach would be to listen to the people that are over there, doing the fighting and decide then what to do. All he is doing is giving the bad guys more ammo to do their dirty deeds. I guess there is more than one way to supply the enemy with weapons to use against us.

    March 29, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Maggie

    Now where is his brain? He is intimating that the number of troops bein deployed to this terriost country will have to do the job of multiple troops whold had done. I know he has milatary advisors but rergless of how many advisors he has to understand wht he being advised to do. He has no knowledge or experience therefore no understanding. some times one has to have on the job training and he has none.

    March 29, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. alvino

    This action is a result of the people in the know advising him. The military has been asking for more troops for two years. It is reassuring to have a president who listens to the advice of the "experts."

    March 29, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. lorne

    canada has been focused there years . it has sent a date of withdrawal. this war is more difficult then iraq, and obama would be wise to move on and dwell on financial issues. pakistan is more then anyone can handle. leave this area to settle itself, they won't be back to terrorize us any time soon.

    March 29, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. catmom

    Whine, whine, whine. Complain, complain, complain. What do you all expect him to do, pull out all of the troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan? I'm sure Republicans would just love that while waiting for the next terrorist attack. If President Obama does that Republicans would be screaming to high heaven. Why don't you people get a grip and do what you kept saying during the Bush administration. The President has a lot more information than ordinary people so let him make the decisions. I believe that is what Republicans screamed whenever a Democrat questioned a Bush decision. At least President Obama has a plan and at least he is listening to the "boots on the ground, " the generals.

    March 29, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. John

    Seems like a fitting warning to Pakistan and Afghanistan that this is not a "blank check." In the end, it is they who will win this "war"!

    What else can we do? Should we, put our heads under the blanket and pray the terrorists that have been created in part because of misguided U.S. policy just go away? We really don't have any more troops beyond those committed because of that other war. Seems to me, we are in between a rock and a hard place. Given that the previous Administration walked away from Afghansitan more than 5 years ago, this seems to be a reasonable "catch-up" strategy.

    Does anyone have a better plan?

    March 29, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. 4 years of nothing but excuses

    What he means is "if my poll numbers start going down because of this, I will run away before the job is done, because after all, IMAGE is everything".

    When first asked what he thought about sending more troops during a high level roundtable, he simply said "present" reverting back to his old ways of making tough calls, but then Rahm (Obama's brain) reminded him that he was now President..................

    Remember sheep, he was against the SURGE that worked and is allowing him to redeploy troops.

    NO fan of Bush the dolt, but "thems" are the facts.

    March 29, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Elle

    I believe that President Obama has the wisdom and patience to consult with and actually listen to top military advisors. These are the same advisors who told Bush NOT to go into Iraq and he did anyway. The result was a failure that we can't afford to repeat.

    Obama is addressing the terrorist situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan directly but his plan will be sensible and not open-ended. The Taliban cannot keep growing in influence and I hope that the US will include all countries in the UN to spend resources on this.

    March 29, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. P. Y.

    @ Catmom Amen !

    A lot of the people who write on this blog would want us all to believe they, and only they, know what is going on in this world. They haven't a clue and in some cases they never really read what is going on before they open their mouths. I will leave the decision making to the president who has top advise. BTW-I am tired of reading about how little experience our president has. He may not have much, but the people who are advising him do, and BTW, Bush had none. On top of that Bush had no brains either. At least this man is intelligent and makes it his business to find out what is going on before he opens his mouth.

    March 29, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. andrea

    Did George Bush have military experience? (I seem to remember the answer to that question is "no".)

    March 29, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Debbie

    We were getting a handle on Afghanistan when Bush pulled a large number of troops out and got distracted trying to one up his daddy in Iraq. It's only right that we try to finish the job in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    March 29, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. flybyshoeing

    Maggie and lady in the know, Please explain what military experience George Bush had ? And don't try that National Guard meme. We all know he barely showed up.

    March 29, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. Mike in Texas

    To lady in the know.

    And how much military experience did G.W. have?

    As for funding the enemy...Guess who was in power when we were supplying Sadam an Bin Laden?

    That's right...Reagan and the Republicans.

    Just admit you don't like the Obama and will disagree with everything he days or does.

    March 29, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  14. George Washington

    with so many political experts, how come this is still a problem?

    March 29, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Simmy

    lady in the know,

    What you refused to acknowledge is, that Bush fits the description of everything you said......He didn't have military experience. He was so concerned about his image that he sent troops into a country that posed no threat to US, and had nothing to do with 9/11. He created a fraudulent thesis for war.

    Bush had no crystal ball, but that didn't stop him from fulfilling his blind ambitions..........Trust me, there is no ammunition that we can give supply that they don't have, or can't get elsewhere. Thanks to Bush, your choice, they have everything they need to fight against US.

    President Obama is using a smart and strategic approach to securing Afghanistan. Hopefully, he can get rid of Bin Laden in the process. Our troops are preparing to withdraw from Iraq, Bush's Viet Nam. God will bless President Obama's efforts. He is operating from a place of intelligence, not arrogance.

    Do more research in the future, and think before criticizing. That cult of criticism will lead you into a life of fear, anxiety, anger, etc. Have faith, and a little more patience.........Peace.....

    God Bless our brave warriors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world.....Our (my family) prayers and support are with you!!!! Stay encouraged.....You are never forgotten.....USA Forever!!!!!!!...

    March 29, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. France boy

    You start stringing enough of these words together and we are going to have a good case for treason against Obama. He is dangerous.

    March 29, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. shannon

    yes catmom, I do expect him to pull all the troops out of Iraq. It is what he promised to do, remember that's why he got elected. If he didn't know enough when he made that promise, he shouldn't have made it. So you keep defending him, me I want him to keep the promises he made.

    March 29, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. ron

    if we're not prepared to have an open ended war on terrorism, then they'll win, cuz THEY ARE PREPARED FOR OPEN ENDED WAR.

    we have to be strong enough to fight it down where ever it pops up. islamic extremism, aimed at america, democracy and non-muslims will continue in asia, africa and europe for decades to come. maybe longer. and maybe here. repeatedly.

    it doesn't have to be a giant war with tens of thousands of troops. just smart concentrations of intel and strikes.

    one thing that WILL NOT WORK IS APPEASMENT.

    March 29, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. Peter E

    Those who think that more troops always equal greater success have forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. We poured in more and more troops over there, inflicted heavy damage to the enemy (we out-killed them some 10 to 1) and yet ultimately it was in vain because the Vietnamy people, the civilians themselves didn't want us there. Not just the North Vietnamese, but the Vietcong (South Vietnamy insurgents) too that just outnumbered the people on our side. We can't win a war just by increasing troops and keep killing people who oppose us. We only win the war if we convince the people to be on our side. And pointing guns at them and killing them will not put that person on our side.

    March 29, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. ran

    If we had concentrated on this from day 1 back in 2001 we would be out of any wars at this time. I want our troops home and this action plus the decrease in troops in Iraq over time will get us there despite the poor action of Bush. Remember folks neither wars were President Obama; like the economy he inherited them from my way or else Bush.

    March 29, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. joe magaratz

    Note to "lady in the know"

    Military experience is not a prerequisite for a President. The only legal requirements in the Constitution are age and natural born citizen. After that an individual only needs the ability to get elected which President Obama has done. Unless a President has solid military experience–think Eisenhower–a President with limited military experience may or may not have an intellectual basis for understanding military matters other than to say "I served."

    March 29, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. Chad

    Another increase in troops!? Maybe it's time for the United States to stay out of other nation's affairs. People wonder why the world hates us, but don't comprehend the fact that we have to always be the world police. We should start worrying about home more, instead of Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, etc. They can solve their own problems and we'll solve ours!

    March 29, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Expat American

    American foreign policy of the past 50-70+ years laid forth the foundation for all of the conflicts abroad that the United States faces at present time. President Obama didn't start the wars in Afghanistan nor did he launch the invasion of Iraq. But it will be his job while he is in office to try to end them. I believe that he is taking an approach that is both methodical and cautious in his desire in doing so. I feel more secure in knowing that President Obama is at the helm and not McCain, who wished to continue down the path of Bush/Cheney and Palin (whose global perspective was best revealed in the ignorant racial and religious bigotry of her isolationist supporters).

    March 29, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. Independent

    Thank God for an intelligent President

    March 29, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Meka


    March 29, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
1 2 3