President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech Liveblog
8:58:24 PM: There is a reason Afghanistan is referred to as the graveyard of foreign armies.
9:00:48 PM: Obama gettting ready to thread the needle on Afghan policy.
9:01:19 PM: Any Afghan policy that ignores the Pak military’s incubation of Islamists is destined for failure.
9:02:25 PM: Obama takes the stage at West Point. Here we go…
9:03:37 PM: Obama: “We did not ask for this fight.”
9:04:43 PM: Obama: “Al Qaeda…distorted and destroyed Islam…one of the world’s great religions.”
9:05:20 PM: Obama: Congressional approval to act against Al Qaeda is still in force today.
9:06:08 PM: Obama: We attacked Afghanistan after Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.
9:06:59 PM: Obama: Iraq war pulled resources away from Afghanistan. We are now bringing Iraq war to a close.
9:07:44 PM: Obama building rationale - legal and otherwise - for escalating in Afghanistan.
9:08:18 PM: Obama: “Taliban maintains ‘common cause’ with Al Qaeda”
9:08:57 PM: Big mistake to conflate Taliban with Al Qaeda. That’s a recipe for a quagmire in Afghanistan.
9:10:19 PM: Obama makes weak argument for the current Afghan government. He says election marred by fraud but government is legitimate. WEAK.
9:11:13 PM: Obama: owe troops “a mission that is clearly defined”. Easier said than done.
9:12:24 PM: No serious person would fault Obama for taking his time making his decision. No need for him to defend deliberation time here. Ignore Cheney
9:14:03 PM: Is Obama LBJ or FDR? Still up in the air.
9:15:20 PM: Obama: “I am convinced our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The most important line of the speech so far - crucial point.
9:16:49 PM: When Obama says “it is from here new attacks are being plotted”, he is referring to Afghanistan AND Pakistan. Nicely done.
9:17:49 PM: Obama: recently extremists were sent here from the “border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan” to commit new acts of terror.
9:18:44 PM: Obama speaking of “partners” in the region. He means Karzai and the Pak military. Both bad bets.
9:19:39 PM: Obama: goal is to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Good goal, but perhaps, bad plan.
9:20:55 PM: Hmm: Obama says “to meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives WITHIN Afghanistan”. What happened to Pakistan?
9:22:17 PM: Obama’s plan: 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to roll back Taliban and prop up Karzai. Doomed to failure.
9:23:57 PM: Flashback to Soviet withdrawal: Afghan prime minister and defence minister shell each other over skies in Kabul. I see a repeat whn US out.
9:24:52 PM: Hard to get support from Afghan people with food while there are boots on the ground killing civilians - however inadvertantly.
9:26:06 PM: The “cancer” in Pakistan is not limited to the “border regions”. Once again, American misdiagnosis of Pakistan. Same old, same old.
9:27:07 PM: Obama needs to study up on Pakistani military doctrine. Study 1971 and use of Islamist paramilitaries by Pak army. That has not changed.
9:28:05 PM: Obama says “there are a range of concerns” about Obama’s plan.
9:28:44 PM: Obama says Afghanistan is not Vietnam. He is right, but Afghanistan IS Afghanistan - and there lies the rub.
9:29:49 PM: Obama does not want to “muddle through” with current troop levels. Again, he is right. But, that again is not, and never has been, an option
9:30:36 PM: Obama rejects open-ended commitment. That is of course a good thing. But this is also why occupations are doomed in Afghanistan.
9:32:59 PM: The speech is winding down. It has been an extremely disappointing speech. In a sense, Obama punted. Disappointing.
9:35:03 PM: This is Obama trying to dig himself out of the mess GWB left him. It is not a long term strategy for South and Central Asia. Opp missed.
9:38:56 PM: Obama’s plan in a nutshell: prop up Karzai + prop up Pak army + insert 30,000 US troops = success. Plan ignores history and reality.
9:40:02 PM: Obama’s plan ignores root causes of instability in that region. Fails to excise al Qaeda from Afghanistan and stem unchecked Islamism in Pak
9:45:41 PM: Success vs al Qaeda required separating them from Taliban and creating rift between al Qaeda and their Afghan hosts. This plan does reverse.
9:51:07 PM: Closing thought on the Obama speech: The speech demonstrates a lack of vision. Clearly a product of decision by committee.