Gibbs on Afghanistan: Not Nation-Building

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the process by which President Obama reached a decision on pursuing a new strategy in Afghanistan is "unprecedented," and amounts to taking the fight to al Qaeda in a fashion which no other administration has done.

Mr. Obama will address the nation this evening from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, to announce a new strategy in Afghanistan, after months of meetings with members of his war council (and months of criticism by the president's opponents that he was "dithering" in his decision).

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Gibbs said, "I think everybody involved really worked hard with the president to make this policy better than it would have been had we announced it after only a week. I think everybody involved made this policy stronger, and I think the American people can be proud of both the process and the decision that the president will announce today."

A senior military official told CBS News that Mr. Obama will call for the deployment of about 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. U.S. troops will be divided into four brigades — three combat brigades, and a training brigade to help build up Afghanistan's own security forces.

The number of new troops is about 10,000 less than what General Stanley McChrystal initially requested. The difference may come from elsewhere, including NATO.

"This is going to be an international effort," Gibbs told "Early Show" anchor Harry Smith. "This is not one country's or one region of the world's problems. But what's important is not just the number of men and women that the president might order to Afghanistan; it's what their mission is.

"We're going to accelerate going after al Qaeda and its extremist allies. We'll accelerate the training of an Afghan national security force, a police and an army, because we want to as quickly as possible transition the security of the Afghan people over to those national security forces in Afghanistan.

"This can't be nation-building," Gibbs said. "It can't be an open-ended, forever commitment, and I think that's what the president will outline."

To make Afghanistan a safer place, Smith asked, why not chase al Qaeda into Pakistan, or to the horn of Africa?

"Well, look, I think this administration has taken the fight to al Qaeda unlike any that we've ever seen," Gibbs said. "I will tell you this: what we want to do is ensure that the same people that plotted against us and attacked us on 9/11 don't have a safe haven provided by the Taliban in Afghanistan to sit and plot like they did on September 11th. This president won't stand for that.

"We'll announce a strategy that accelerates taking the fight to al Qaeda, and I think the American people will be proud of it."

More Coverage:

Official: 30,000 Troops for Afghan Surge
Obama Speech Is First "Address to the Nation"
Marines to Lead Obama's Afghanistan Surge
CBS News' David Martin on Obama's Plans
Afghan Plan Revives Nation-Building Debate
Spokesman Robert Gibbs on Afghanistan: Not Nation-Building
Politics Today: Obama Makes Critical Decisions
CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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