President Barack Obama said Friday that about 100 American troops have been deployed to the African nation of Niger. Two U.S. defense officials said the troops would be setting up a base for unarmed drones to conduct surveillance.
Obama announced the deployment in a letter to Congress, saying that the forces “will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region.”
The move marks a deepening of U.S. efforts to stem the spread of al-Qaida and its affiliates in the volatile region. It also underscores Obama’s desire to fight extremism without involving large numbers of U.S. ground forces.
The drone base will allow the U.S. to give France more intelligence on the militants its forces have been fighting in Mali, which neighbors Niger. Over time, it could extend the reach not only of American intelligence-gathering but also U.S. special operations missions to strengthen Niger’s own security forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai said Friday American troops will hand the lead role in fighting the Taliban to Afghan forces in the next few months. The remarks followed a meeting of the two leaders at the White House.
Obama said American troops in Afghanistan will move to a supporting role several months earlier than expected.
“Our troops will have a different mission, training, advising, assisting Afghan forces. It will be an historic moment,” said Obama.
Karzai said after the handover, Afghan forces will be fully responsible for security.
“International forces, the American forces, will be no longer present in Afghan villages, that the task will be that of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people security and protection,” said Karzai.
The comments came several days after a senior Obama administration official suggested the U.S. may pull out all of its troops by the end of 2014.
It isn’t easy being President of the United States of America.
All of us are armchair quarterbacks of course, with very distinct ideas of how things ought to be done around here. While there is no shortage of advice and opinion there is a distinct lack of understanding what the job of POTUS is really like.
The chief executive has to make decisions predicated on information only he and a select few others have. The president must factor in short term, medium term and long term implications his decision might have. Je has to consider his allies- both real and fair weather and he has to deal with constraints the leader of a democratic nation many other leaders do not have to contend with.
The decisions Mr Obama and those his predecessor have made must take into account national security, foreign relations and domestic and economic policies. These are not easy decisions because every adversary of the president , both foreign and political opponents alike, all work very hard at pushing the envelope. Further, adversaries rarely have similar agendas and in some cases (adversarial)politics will dictate the agenda. The president has to contend with political foes who will oppose him simply because the need to oppose him is their entire raison d’etre.
Of all the decisions the president- any president- must make are the ones to send American troops into harm’s way. These decisions never come easily- it isn’t the media images of coffins being met with solemn ceremonies but rather with the knowledge that your decision means the loved ones of others will not come home.
Every candidate understands this going in but yet they still want the job. Why? Because they want to leave the country a better place. Of course, that always gets trumped by the memories of the men and women sent into harms way. In the same way we might second guess ourselves about the might have beens or the could have beens, our presidents do the same. Only they reflect on decisions which have affected many more people in often far more serious matters.
All in all, that is a good thing. Our presidents really do reflect us. It is comforting to know our leaders anguish over the same things we would, over lives lost and lives forever changed
Not every nation is so blessed.
To understand how air-force navigator Tyler Stark ended up in a thornbush in the Libyan desert in March 2011, one must understand what it’s like to be president of the United States—and this president in particular. Hanging around Barack Obama for six months, in the White House, aboard Air Force One, and on the basketball court, Michael Lewis learns the reality of the Nobel Peace Prize winner who sent Stark into combat.
Even after his parachute opened, Tyler Stark sensed he was coming down too fast. The last thing he’d heard was the pilot saying, “Bailout! Bailout! Bail—” Before the third call was finished, there’d come the violent kick in the rear from the ejector seat, then a rush of cool air. They called it “opening shock” for a reason. He was disoriented. A minute earlier, when the plane had started to spin—it felt like a car hitting a patch of ice—his first thought had been that everything was going to be fine: My first mission, I had my first close call. He’d since changed his mind. He could see the red light of his jet’s rocket fading away and also, falling more slowly, the pilot’s parachute. He went immediately to his checklist: he untangled himself from his life raft, then checked the canopy of his chute and saw the gash. That’s why he was coming down too fast. How fast he couldn’t say, but he told himself he’d have to execute a perfect landing. It was the middle of the night. The sky was black. Below his feet he could see a few lights and houses, but mainly it was just desert.
When he was two years old, Tyler Stark had told his parents he wanted to fly, like his grandfather who had been shot down by the Germans over Austria. His parents didn’t take him too seriously until he went to college, at Colorado State University, when on the first day of school he had enrolled in the air-force R.O.T.C. program. A misdiagnosis about his eyesight killed his dreams of being a pilot and forced him into the backseat, as a navigator. At first he was crushed by the news, but then he realized that, while an air-force pilot might be assigned to fly cargo planes or even drones, the only planes with navigators in them were fighter jets. So the mix-up about his eyesight had been a blessing in disguise. The first years of his air-force career he’d spent on bases in Florida and North Carolina. In 2009 they’d shipped him to England, and to a position where he might see action. And on the night of March 21, 2011, Captain Tyler Stark took off in an F-15 from a base in Italy, with a pilot he’d only just met, on his first combat mission. He now had reasons to think it might also be his last.
¶ KABUL, Afghanistan — The American troop surge in Afghanistan is over.
¶ More than a week ahead of schedule, the American military says it has completed what it called the “recovery,” meaning withdrawal, of the 33,000 surge troops it had sent to Afghanistan by the fall of 2010.
¶ The milestone, which still leaves 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan, went nearly unremarked here, with no statement from President Hamid Karzai or the United States military commander, Gen. John R. Allen, or even from the American ambassador. It was announced on the other side of the planet, by the American Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, during a visit to New Zealand.
¶ “As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield, and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces,” Mr. Panetta said
Facing criticism for failing to mention American troops or the Afghan war effort in his convention speech, Mitt Romney spoke before National Guard members on Tuesday and called for robust support of the nation’s armed forces, saying that “the return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts.”
The Caucus: A Quiet and Solemn Day of Remembrance (September 11, 2012)
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Mitt Romney greeted firefighters on the tarmac at O’Hare Airport in Chicago before departing for Reno, Nev., on Tuesday.
Mr. Romney highlighted the threat of automatic Pentagon cuts after a failure to reach a budget deal in Congress — a theme he has used recently to hammer the Obama administration. And he offered effusive praise of Guard members, who have been called to service repeatedly in recent conflicts.
“The attack on our homeland and citizens on Sept. 11, 2001, reminds us that the mission of the Guard is ever more critical, and ever more deserving of our support and honor,” he said.
The speech was a moment for Mr. Romney to move the discussion of his defense and foreign policy credentials beyond the critiques of his speech, and to direct the conversation toward the threat of automatic military cuts if Congress does not reach a deal on substitute reductions by the end of the year.
Several thousand soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are taking part in what is being called the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War.
Their task is to clear Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold and a key prize because it straddles the major roads to Kabul and the insurgent supply routes into Pakistan.
But the American troops are challenged by a stubborn enemy and a short time to finish the job.
The first casualty happened before the mission even started: An Afghan army soldier, Burhan Muddin, was standing watch at his combat outpost when a Taliban gunman slipped out of a crowd and opened fire.
A single bullet pierced the Afghan soldier’s chest.
Support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort and about half of those who oppose the war saying the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good, according to an AP-GfK poll.
In results released Wednesday, 66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were “strongly” opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in the spring of 2010, support was at 46 percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll.
The poll found that far fewer people than last year think the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. troops increased the threat of terrorism against Americans. Overall, 27 percent say the al-Qaida leader’s death resulted in an increased terror threat, 31 percent believe his death decreased the threat of terrorism and 38 percent say it has had no effect. The poll was conducted before the revelation this week of a recent al-Qaida plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner with an underwear bomb.
The Afghan government and the U.S. signed a deal Sunday governing night raids by American troops, resolving an issue that had threatened to derail a larger pact governing a U.S. presence in the country for decades to come.
The raids were a constant source of tension between Kabul and Washington. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called repeatedly to stop the raids, saying that they are provocative when carried out by foreign troops. The U.S. military has said such operations are essential for capturing Taliban and al-Qaida commanders.
A resolution of this dispute is a key step toward finalizing a long-term “strategic partnership” to govern U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the majority of combat forces leave in 2014. The long-term pact is seen as important for assuring the Afghan people that they will not be abandoned by their international allies.
AMERICAN troops have landed in Darwin to handshakes from Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and a welcome parade.
But the government seems unable to decide whether America belongs in the region - switching again from promising an ”Asian century” back to an ”Asia-Pacific” one.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year commissioned a strategic blueprint to be known as the ”Australia in the Asian Century” white paper, changing the language from Labor’s 2009 defence white paper ”Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific Century”, a phrase that links the US to the region.
The US was more explicit. On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: ”The 21st century will be America’s Pacific century.”
Defence expert Professor Hugh White said the phrase ”Asia-Pacific” makes the United States central to Asia’s future, while ”Asian century” leaves that question open.
And China responded coolly to the announcement last November that US marines would be based in Australia for six months of the year.
The Taliban on Monday vowed revenge for a U.S. soldier’s killing spree of 16 villagers in Afghanistan that has sparked a new crisis in already fragile Afghan-American relations.
The U..S soldier walked off his base, heavily armed and with night vision equipment, and broke into three village homes before dawn Sunday, killing 16 people including women and children, according to Western and Afghan sources.
Some bodies bore blackened burn marks, according to an Agence France Presse correspondent who saw them at the villages in the southern province of Kandahar.
It is the latest in a series of actions by American troops that has provoked outrage in Afghanistan, and comes weeks after the burning of Korans at a U.S. base provoked riots that killed 40 people and plunged ties to an all-time low.
The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against U.S.-led foreign troops and the government in Kabul, threatened to take revenge against “sick-minded American savages … for every single martyr.”
The statement on their website came after the U.S. embassy urged its citizens to take extra precautions, warning against “a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days especially in eastern and southern provinces.”
A soldier has been detained and the United States has offered condolences to the families and pledged that action will be taken against anyone found guilty.
President Barack Obama telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to promise a speedy investigation into the “shocking” killings, which fanned already smoldering anger among Afghans over the burning of the Korans.
Sunday’s massacre poses an acute test of the U.S.-Afghan alliance, as the two countries pursue difficult talks on securing a strategic pact to govern their partnership once foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.
The proposed strategic pact would likely cover the legal status of any U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan to help Kabul with intelligence, air power and logistics in the fight against Taliban insurgents.