New Details Emerge On Obama Troop Decision

New details are emerging as President Obama's announcement of his Afghanistan troop decision nears. In a primetime address to the nation, Obama is expected to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan and to boost the training of Afghan forces.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

We're learning more today about President Obama's scheduled announcement next week on more troops for Afghanistan. The president will address the nation Tuesday night and will deliver his primetime address from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There are expectations that the president will approve a sizeable increase in U.S. troops for Afghanistan.

NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now with some details. Tom, the key issue on everybody's mind is how many more troops will be sent? What have you heard?

TOM BOWMAN: Well, that's a central question that has been asked for the past couple of months. And General McChrystal, Stanley McChrystal, who is the top commander in Afghanistan, he's asked for 40,000 more troops. The new number I heard today, he'll get about 36,000. In most news organizations, the sort of reporting around that - roughly that figure - with the balance of the forces coming from NATO countries.

So, it looks like McChrystal will get pretty close to what he wants - that magic 40,000 number. And of those numbers I'm hearing that 10,000 new American trainers will be sent over and then the other troops will be largely combat and support troops. And look for troops that have been already been deployed to Afghanistan. So, perhaps the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, New York, 101st Airborne from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Marine units from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They also need a lot more helicopters, so, look for an aviation brigade as well.

BLOCK: So, tens of thousands potentially more U.S. troops. Will they be pursuing, Tom, a different strategy, a different role? You mentioned all these trainers.

BOWMAN: Right. Training is going to be a key part of this. And what General McChrystal wants is more robust training. So these trainers are going to be living and sleeping and eating with these Afghan recruits. And then they're going to do something different, they're going to roll out in operations with them once they've been trained. So, it's going to be this seamless move from training to operations with the Afghan forces. And that's something new.

And, also, I think the president is going to talk a lot about turning over provinces in Afghanistan once they've been pacified to Afghan forces. That's a key part of this, too, is you have to show some progress that security means something. It's turning into stability and that Afghan government has to take over. And I think, clearly, a big issue there is corruption. So he's going to talk a lot about what the Karzai government has to do dealing with corruption, providing more basic services to the people over there. That's something that's been lacking over in Afghanistan.

BLOCK: Tom, though, the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was pressed today about whether the president will talk about an exit strategy and Robert Gibbs said our time there will be limited. What are you hearing about a timetable?

BOWMAN: Well, that's a key question, I think, for everyone to listen for Tuesday night when the president speaks. The president said he would bring this to an end. And we don't know exactly what he means by that. By flooding the zone with U.S. troops, clearly you're going to have better security, but it's going to take many years, most people say, to create stability. And, again, that's better governance from the Afghan government - that's more Afghan forces that can take the lead here.

That's something you don't do overnight. That could take - some people think a decade. So a key thing to hear from the president is, is he going to try to wrap this up by the end of his first term or is he going to sort of send a message that, listen, this is going to take a real long time and we have to stick with it? That's something to listen for.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Thank you very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.