WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land expressed both anxiety and hope regarding President Obama’s Dec. 1 announcement of the additional troops he is committing to a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.
Speaking to a national television audience, Obama said he would send 30,000 more troops in order to quell uprisings after eight years of war against al-Qaida and Taliban forces in the southwest Asian country. The first of the troops will begin leaving Afghanistan in 18 months, or mid-2011, the president said.
Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reportedly had recommended as many as 40,000 troops in a request presented to the Pentagon in late September.
“First, I’m nervous that the president has given our generals on the ground less than they’ve requested as the resources they believe necessary to finish the job of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and, jointly with Pakistan, the Taliban in that terribly important country as well,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Second, I am of course hopeful that the president’s plan will work,” he said. “If anyone can make it work, it is our wonderful military with its tens of thousands of dedicated patriots and citizens serving voluntarily to defend their country in difficult and dangerous places.”
Land added, “I would encourage all Americans to pray for our commander in chief and for all of those who serve in our nation’s armed forces as they seek to defend our freedom in a dangerous and difficult world. We should also remember to pray for the families they leave behind and the significant sacrifices they make for our nation’s freedom as well.”
During his speech from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Obama said he decided to send the additional troops “because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.”
“In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror,” Obama said. “And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al-Qaida can operate with impunity.”
To prevent threats by the Islamic terrorists to the United States and its allies, Obama said his plan is to seek the following objectives in Afghanistan: “We must deny al-Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.”
The additional troops will begin deployment early next year, Obama said. They will “target the insurgency and secure key population centers,” as well as enhance the effort to train the Afghan military, he said.
The troop surge also is designed to aid the United States and its allies in partnering with Pakistan to uproot terrorists inside the border it shares with Afghanistan, the president said in his 34-minute primetime speech.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.