President Obama will lay out his strategy on Afghanistan on Tuesday in an address to the nation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the White House said Wednesday.
While still mum on the details -- press secretary Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama hasn't even told him whether a final decision has been reached -- the White House said the president will tell Americans what's at stake.
"We're in the ninth year of our efforts in Afghanistan. The American people are going to want to know why we're here, they're going to want to know what our interests are," Mr. Gibbs said.
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"The president will want to walk through this decision-making process and give people a sense of the importance of our efforts, but reiterate for them that the president does not see this as an open-ended engagement."
Mr. Gibbs would not say whether that meant a specific timetable.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Mr. Obama's top general in Afghanistan, has requested a surge of tens of thousands of troops. He says without those troops, the war effort may be lost.
The Pentagon is planning for an increase of up to 35,000 troops to begin next year. Military officials told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the president's plans.
The additional forces would come atop a record 71,000 U.S. troops in the country now and would represent the largest expansion since the war began eight years ago.
Mr. Obama has spent months considering Gen. McChrystal's request, drawing fire from Republicans who say the delay is costing American lives and possibly squandering a closing window for victory.
He also is addressing a war-weary public, a majority of whom oppose the war in polls, and congressional Democrats eager to end the effort.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs committees Wednesday. On Thursday, they are scheduled to go before the Senate Foreign Relations and House Armed Services committees.
Congressional Republicans, in particular, are more eager for the testimony that is likely to come the following week. War commander Gen. McChrystal and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, are likely to appear on Capitol Hill on Dec. 8 or 9, officials said.
Mr. Obama approved 21,000 additional troops for Afghanistan last spring, in what he said at the time was a wholesale rethinking of U.S. strategy for a war he said his predecessor had neglected. That brought U.S. forces to an expected 68,000 by the end of this year. The actual figure is slightly higher now because of overlap between troops entering and leaving the country on regular rotations.
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