Speech Analysis: Afghanistan

During his address, President Obama said the United States is increasing its forces in Afghanistan to help train security forces there "so they can take the lead in July 2011" and American troops can come home. However, the pace of training in Afghanistan to date has been uneven at best, and the caliber of Afghan troops already trained is considered low.

Although partnering with Afghan forces is the focus of the new strategy, U.S. military officials have not wanted to put a timeline on handing over security to Afghan forces. When the president first announced last month that U.S. troops would begin withdrawing in the summer of 2011, it may have helped soothe political concerns in Washington. But it also confirmed in the minds of many Afghans that the U.S. commitment to their country is limited.

Obama said the United States will "reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans." This is a clear warning to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was reinstalled in office following an election riddled with fraud. Karzai's government includes former warlords; corruption is rampant. In his address, Obama acknowledged that difficult days lie ahead in Afghanistan, but he said he was "confident we will succeed."

The president did not mention anything about talking to the Taliban, even though the top American general in Afghanistan, Stanley McCrystal, has raised the prospect that the U.S. troop surge could lead to a peace agreement with some members of the Taliban. This issue is a primary focus of a conference on Afghanistan being held this week in London.

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