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Obama Afghan Speech Is His First "Address to the Nation"

Of the 366 statements, remarks and comments President Obama has delivered since taking office, tonight's speech at West Point is his first one billed as an address to the nation.

He'll use it to unveil his new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He'll announce deployments of upwards of 30,000 additional troops; explain how the government will provide the $30-billion a year in funding for them, and also make it clear the U.S. military commitment there is not open-ended.

It's unusual but not unprecedented for Mr. Obama to deliver an address to the nation from a venue other than the White House.

His immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, delivered 23 addresses to the nation during his 8 years in office of which 7 originated from sites other than the White House:

• August 9, 2001: Stem Cell Research – Bush Ranch
• November 8, 2001: War on Terrorism – World Congress Center, Atlanta
• September 11, 2001: First Anniversary of 9/11 – Ellis Island, N.Y. Harbor
• October 7, 2002: Threat Posed by Iraq – Cincinnati Museum Center
• May 1, 2003: End of Major Combat Operations in Iraq – USS Abraham Lincoln, 30 miles off coast of San Diego
• June 23, 2005: War in Iraq – Fort Bragg, N.C.
• September 15, 2005: Response to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans

Interestingly, Mr. Bush was the last president to speak at West Point. On Dec 9th of last year, about 6 weeks before leaving office, he delivered a farewell address about the transformation of the military on his watch. And in that speech, as in the one Mr. Obama delivers tonight, Afghanistan was a principle concern.

"Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists," Mr. Bush said that day, a commitment Mr. Obama is likely to reiterate tonight.

Mr. Obama is also expected to renew the U.S. determination to help Afghanistan, and especially Pakistan, "assert control over ungoverned spaces."

"This problem is most pronounced in Pakistan, where areas along the Afghanistan border are home to Taliban and to al Qaeda fighters," said Mr. Bush a year ago.

That situation remains of grave concern a year later and will be a principle component of the president's speech.

But above all else, Mr. Obama will be making it clear that more, much more, will be demanded of Afghan forces. The American objective, he will say, is to train them so they can take over security responsibilities in Afghanistan from the U.S. and its allies.

What remains to be seen is whether Mr. Obama is the last U.S. president to have to make assertions of that kind.

More Coverage of Obama's Speech:

Marines to Lead Obama's Afghanistan Surge
CBS News' David Martin on Obama's Plans
Spokesman Robert Gibbs on Afghanistan: Not Nation-Building
Politics Today: Obama Makes Critical Decisions Special Report: Afghanistan

You can watch the speech on your CBS station at 8 p.m. ET or online on

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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