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Posted by on Dec 1, 2009 in International, Politics, War | 12 comments

Live-blogging the speech (plus wrap-up)

Live-blogging below. Bottom line here:

The President was crystal clear about why we are sending more troops to Afghanistan. We were attacked on 9/11. If the Taliban take back Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will come back with them. America’s security is directly at stake. Right now, we only have enough troops for a stalemate, not for success.

How will our military strategy change in Afghanistan? What will the mission be of our 30,000 additional troops? The President offered a couple of nods to “securing the population”, the core concept of counterinsurgency theory. He also mentioned training Afghan forces. But this issue deserves much more detailed discussion, because the deployment of additional troops is the key commitment we are now making.

Finally, the exit strategy. There was a clear date for when it will begin. Must certain conditions be achieved before the exit begins? What will be the indications of success we should monitor? What if the Afghan government does not improve its performance? What if the new Afghan forces take longer to train? Are we committed to success, because our “vital national interests” are at stake? Or will those interests be reconsidered if they aren’t met by July 2011? That is the great unknown. Or more precisely, the great unsaid.

I’ll be watching at

7:53pm — Elevator music courtesy of the White House. Useful, since it indicates my audiostream is working.

7:58pm — Turkey sandwich good to go. Three cheers for Thanksgiving leftovers.

8:03pm — I’ll bring this war to a “successful conclusion”. Never mention success without an exit.

8:03pm — Straight to 9/11. Good.

8:05pm — The White House is also live-streaming the speech on its Facebook page, with comments active.

8:10pm — We need more troops to “secure the population”. Securing the population is key to counterinsurgency thinking.

8:12pm — It’s a “vital national interest” to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan…but they will begin to leave after 18 months. So will our vital interests no longer exist after 18 months?

8:14pm — Afghanistan is “the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda”.

8:21pm — A message to the Afghan people — the US has no interest in occupying Afghanistan. I think the real question on the mind of the Afghan people is will the Americans defeat the Taliban, or will the Taliban return as soon as the Americans leave (perhaps in July 2011)?

8:25pm — This will not be an open-ended commitment, like some people want. Benchmark time?

8:28pm — No benchmarks now. Maybe later?

8:30pm — Our commitment to human rights is the foundation of our moral authority, and we will speak out for our principles. I agree 100%. Some dissidents in Tehran may be skeptical.

8:35pm — We can be unified again like we were after 9/11. Really?

8:35pm — The end.