West Point (New York, US), Dec.2 (ANI): US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that he would be sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan by next summer. He also said that he plans to have all surviving American troops back home by July 2011.
Addressing cadets and officers at West Point, Obama said: "As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan."
Obama sought to reassure NATO allies and the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan that he was not abandoning the war effort, while pressuring them to make sure they hold up their end of the bargain.
"The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas - such as agriculture that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people," he added.
He also said that the United States would not tolerate Pakistan allowing its territory to be a safe haven for militants and urged Islamabad to fight the "cancer" of extremism.
"We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," Obama said further.
The accelerated timetable was unveiled in the high-stakes speech, and left some Pentagon planners surprised, as they expected a 12 to 18-month period for deploying forces to bolster the 68,000 U.S. troops already in the war zone.
These U.S. troops, plus an expected extra contingent from NATO allies, Obama said, "will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."
"Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully, for what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility. What's at stake is the security of our allies and the common security of the world," he said.
It is expected that the fresh American troop surge will cost the national exchequer approximately 30 billion dollars and push the cost of military operations in Afghanistan to nearly 95 billion dollars for this fiscal year. (ANI + inputs)