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. Jerry

    Funny he is not prepared to supply unlimited resources to thwart terrorism and protect our troops, but has no problem squandering unlimited dollars of taxpayer money for his Liberal agenda. He and his wife both need to slow down and get some focus.

    March 29, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. ex-obama supporter

    trying to pander to the anti-war crowd that supported him, because of the backlash. same with prohibition. same with gays in the military. he is not the bold leader i voted for, and will not recieve my vote or support, again.

    March 29, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  3. And the wars go on........

    Obama promised us peace, but the wars go on......

    He promised to negotiate with Iran, but they slapped his hand because they knew he was weak....

    And unemployment gets worse.....

    And the bailouts continue......

    Where is the change we can believe in?????

    March 29, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Mr. Cook

    Obama is doing what he said he was going to do during the campaign. The past campaign has already proven that understanding trumps experience. You dont need to have had a military career for half your life to understand that you need to send the troops to where the threats are actually at, and not have them illegally occupying a country in which the threats no longer reside.

    Obama is doing another thing that people claim they want, but dont seem to appreciate in a presidency–listening. Do you actually think He is making all of these decsions on his own? He has been working with numerous groups of brilliant military minds, and has been listening to them all. He has only been in office for a little over two months. It is going to take time to refocus our foriegn policy efforts.

    March 29, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. concerned

    What led this man to believe that more troops is not always best? Does he even understand the situation in Afghanistan? The military is stretched incredibly thin. His solution to the Afghanistan situation is like placing sporadic bouncers in the midst of a huge mob. Sheer numbers will overwhelm them. More troops always yields positive returns and will decrease casualties significantly. The terrain in Afghanistan and the layout of the country makes it impossible for just a few brigades to take control of this country and drive out the fighters. Mr. Obama, you MUST either go all-in or simply concede this one. Please, you need to understand what is happening here.

    March 29, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Mike

    I watched this Face the Nation interview, and I have to say that the President really has his act together. He is approaching the problem-solving process on a set of exceptionally critical issues, both foreign and domestic, in a very solid, competent, data-based manner. There is no doubt in my mind that we, the American people, have hired the right person for this job.

    March 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Carl W Smelcer

    At least our President isn't stuck with Chaney & Rumsfelt like bush was.

    March 29, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Jane

    Hillary really looks happy, doesn't she. Well, she shoudl have won and maybe, just maybe we would have been better off. We certainly are not better off now. Obama is stupid – that is all we can say for him. He no longer has Bush to blame, even though he still tries, and now he has nothing to say. He does not hve the experience to be president.

    March 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. MaryanneAZ

    I worry that the Afghans and Pakistanis may have less interest in actually finding or eliminating Al Qaeda or Bin Laden where it will mean an end to our financial and political support. I do not have an answer to the dilemma, but I do worry.

    March 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. bk

    Obama is just continuing Bush's plan. No change here.

    March 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. New Yorker

    'A limit to Afghan troop commitment." Now that is just what the enemy wanted to hear; great job Obama! Yeah, right.

    March 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. Seth

    Yeah, Catmom, Obama really listened to the "boots on the ground" when he flatly said the surge in Iraq "was not the solution and wouldn't work. It was the solution and Obama was 100% wrong! He never admitted it, but now he is going to try the same in a less volatile (than Iraq was pre-surge) Afghanistan. Also to Lorne, Afghanistan has never been as violent as Iraq was pre surge, so to see how people can equate that is is worse than Iraq boggles my mind. Why should we give up. On the Canada issue, they were never fully committed in the first place, and they only have 2,500 total troops in the country. Thanks, Canada, but you should stick to hockey. Bad comparison Lorne.

    March 29, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  13. France boy

    Obama's own words can be used for an indictement against him for crimes against the United States. Simple as that.

    March 29, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. vanessa

    I wonder how many of us who read these articles and comment really have any idea how to deal with foreign relations? It is fine that we express ourselves and say what we think. The freedom to say what we think without legal repercussions is the best quality in America. However, I would point out that we have many problems on our plate now and this president is working very hard at dealing with all of them. The past eight years have been a mess, with a president who not only did not deal with issues well or competently, but caused many of the problems. His administration, with a few exceptions, were not forthright with us and we had no idea how bad things were. I hope those who are critical of President Obama will take a step back and let this play out. Doesn't he deserve a chance to improve the situations he has inherited? I also think we should not canonize him. He is a vast improvement over Bush, but he works slowly and carefully, and we need to give him space to work, and to make mistakes. I am patient. I will hold judgment and give him time to try his ideas.

    March 29, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. Anthony

    Pres. Obama is exactly the same as the Bush Administration, but worse! He is spending and committing both our tax dollars and troops for war in Afgan, and contributed money to Pakistan.

    This not Bush administration, but worse. Dragging us into wars in countries where we do not belong. So much for his diplomancy and working with other nations to no avail he is giving money to Pakistan, fighting in Afgan, and sending troops whom should be home without any other country contributing money or troops in any reasonable of comparable to the U.S. , except for Canada which does provide troops.

    This president is digging us into a big black hole, and using money we do not have to resolve problems in other countries that he says is a "world problem". This President then step up to plate, and speak about what he preached in his campaign that now seems to be a shame. I am disappointed because I thought he was different. Everybody laughed Ron Paul away from Presidency, but he would have been the perfect answer.

    We are way overextended, and probably with respect to spending money one of the poorest countries in the world with respect to spending as a percent of GDP. It is time for a new president.

    Thank you,

    March 29, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. Mark, Bradenton,FL

    Afghanistan will soon be the end of another great power history will the state from Alexander the Great, the Persians, the British Empire, the French, the Soviet Union to the US all of them dug their grave in Afghanistan. USA rest in peace. I give you five more years maybe.

    March 29, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Tess Falasco

    So where is the "change"? Looks like he is walking down the same path as Bush, just a different color.
    Change would be bringing ALL troops from around the world home to protect us here instead of hiring contract thugs to lead us away to camp. Or would that be the Russians in Denver? Maybe the Chinese?
    I could swear I heard him saying he was going to end the war during his campaign...guess that was just a little lie to get the votes from the American people who were starving for change. Well, you got it alright. Breaking laws left and right to steal our tax dollars to bailout the banksters and wall street crooks and allowing those same people to continue the job of "rescue".
    Wake up America! Smell it!

    March 29, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. Kathy

    I was in the military there is a lot that goes on NO one knows about but the pentigon and the president with his advisors. My uncle was a civilian ex-navy top management in the pentigon and we never even were allowed to know where in the world he was most of the time.

    People need to trust there leads are intelligent. The president has my trust and support as he has put in lots of thought before he makes a decision or even answers a question he could regret later.

    LOTS of pressure with that job!! He is in my prayers

    March 29, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  19. DavidinCA

    Tess Falasco...I had wondered who all of these people are that voted for Obama. You have answered my question and make me worry about the whole premise of the American election system. Did you really think Obama was going to bring ALL of our troops home????
    It looks you have been bamboozled but my guess is this isn't the first time, huh?

    March 29, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. S Callahan

    Back on topic.....Obama reminds me alot of Gideon....have some faith...with some Godly intervention there will be good results for everyone.

    March 29, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. DrMan

    It will be interesting to see how the libs and the MSM (aka liberal media) spin this if it doesn't go well. Even when things were going well in Iraq people wanted out (encouraged, of course, by the press.) If things go poorly in Afghanistan, I bet you it will be spun in a way to blame Bush, not their precious Obama.

    March 29, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. No Hillary = No Obama

    It is very difficult to see the person who should have been President standing behind the person who is acting as if they are President. The real leader standing behind the figurehead. Has Obama ever taken an order from anyone?

    March 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  23. tjaman

    He's acknowledging there's some upper limit to the benefits of troop deployment to a Third World nation with serious problems. And probably there's more that international aid organizations can accomplish than they've had any opportunity to, but nothing of lasting benefit can happen until stability is returned to the region, and that's in our interests and that's what they're there for. And hey, in the meantime, maybe we can focus a little more on finding that rat-bastage who flew planes into our buildings.

    March 29, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. DEM in HI

    Obama and all of Congress do not get it. Either state a time table in which we can see an end, or bring the troops home. We are becoming the world's police and EVERY nation that has tried this has failed. We need to go after Bin Laden and Omar and then let the countries stand up for themselves. We cannot dictate to the world what is acceptable and what is not as a form of government.

    March 29, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. w.l. jones

    All the Aghan have to do is get on the phone and call Korean how we help build there country and economic ,.we deliver .

    March 29, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
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