tv Presidential Address MSNBC December 1, 2009 8:00pm-9:00pm EST
in an address to the nation at west point, new york, president obama will announce the beginning of the end of u.s. involvement in afghanistan. that begins with the escalation of american troops to the region. roughly 30,000 to be completed by next summer. in july, a withdrawal of forces. a hope to thread a needle to make the commitment known to the afghans, taliban and the world. but, not to make it open ended. officials saying, announcing start of the withdrawal from iraq is the most misunderstood point of the president's new plan for afghanistan. we have learned that plan will be wrapped in heavy congressional oversight. military contracting, that made iraq a scandal.
the president himself briefing lawmakers on a video conference call. good evening from new york city, this is msnbcs coverage of the president's speech. chris matthews, rachel maddow and i will have more of this concludes. rachel at 10:00, chris at 11:00 and ed slults at midnight. here is the president of the united states. ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. [ applause ]
>> thank you. thank you. please be seated. good evening. to the united states corps of cadets, to the men and women or our armed services and to my fellow americans, i want to speak to you tonight ability about our effort in afghanistan. the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interest and the strategy we will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. it's an extraordinary honor for me to do so at west point where so many men and women are prepared to stand-up and represent what is finest about our country. to address the important issues, it's important to recall why
america and our allies were compelled to fight a war in afghanistan in the first place. we did not ask for this fight. on september 11, 2001, 19 men hijacks four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. they struck at our military and economic nerve centers. they took the lives of innocent men, women and children without regard to their faith, race or station. we a were it not for the heroic actions of passengers on board one of these flights, they could have struck a great symbol in washington and killed many more. as we know, these men belonged to al qaeda, a group of extremists who distorted and defiled islam, one of the world's great religions to justify the slaughter of innocence. al qaeda's base of operations
was in afghanistan. where they were harbored by the taliban, a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was avenuaged by years of soviet occupation and civil war and after the attention of american and our friends turned elsewhere. days of 9/11, congress authorized the use of force against al qaeda and those who harbored them, an authorization that continues to this day. the vote in the senate was 98 to 0. the vote in the house was 420 to 1. for the first time in its history, the north atlantic treaty invoked article 5. the attack on one member nation is an attack on all. the united nations endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks.
america, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al qaeda's network and protect our common security. under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy, and only after the taliban refused to turn over osama bin laden, we sent our troops into afghanistan. within a matter of mornts, al qaeda was scattered and many operatives were killed. the taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. a place that has known decades of fear now had reason to hope. at a conference convened, a government was established under karzai. an international security assistance force was established to help bring a lasting piece to a war torn country. then, in early 2003, the
decision was made to wage a second war in iraq. the republican wrenching debate is well known and not to be repeated here. it drew the dominant share of our troops, resources, diplomacy and national attention. the decision to go into iraq caused risks between america and much of the world. today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the iraq war to a responsible end. we will remove our brigades from iraq by the end of next summer and all of our troops by the end of 2011. we are doing so, as a testment to the character of the men and women in uniform. thanks to their courage, grit
and perseverance, we have given iraqis a chance to shape their future. we are successfully leaving iraq to its people. but, while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in iraq, the situation in afghanistan had d deteriorated. 2001 and 2002, al qaeda's leadership established a safe havrn there. a legitimate government was sent to the afghan people. the drug trade, underdeveloped economy and insignificant security forces. the taliban maintained common cause with al qaeda as they seek an overthrow of the afghan government. gradually, they have begun to control additional swas of territory while engaging in
attacks of terrorism against the pakistani people. the troop levels in afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in iraq. when i took office, we just over 32,000 americans serving in afghanistan compared to 160,000 in iraq at the peak of the war. commanders in afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with it, but the reinforcements did not arrive. shortly after taking office, i approved a long standing request for more troops. after consultations, i announced a strategy recognizing the connection between our war effort in afghanistan and the extremist safe havns in pakistan. i set a goal that was narrowly defined as defeating al qaeda and extremist allies and pledged
to coordinate military and civilian efforts. since then, we have made progress. taliban leaders have been kild. we have stepped up the pressure on al qaeda worldwide. pakistan, that nation's army has gone on its largest offensive in years. in afghanistan, we and our allies prevented them from stopping an election. it was marred by fraud, but it produced a government that's consistent with laws and constitution. yet, huge challenges remain. afghanistan is not lost. but, for several years, it's moved backwards. there's no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the taliban has gained momentum. al qaeda has not reemerged in afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but retain their
safe havens along the border. our forces lack the full support they need to train and partner with afghan security forces and better secure the population. our new commander in afghanistan, general mcchrystal reported it's more serious than he anticipated. the status quo is not sustainable. as cadets, you volunteer for service during this time of danger. some of you fought in afghanistan. some of you will deploy there. as your commander in chief, i owe you a mission that's clearly defined and worthy of your service. that's why, after the afghan voting was completed, i insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. let me be clear. there has never been an option before me that called for troop
deployments before 2010. so, there's been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. instead, the review allowed me to ask the hard questions. and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our leadership in afghanistan and our key partners. given the mistakes involved, i owed the american people and our troops no less. this review is now complete. as commander in chief, i have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 u.s. troops to afghanistan. after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. these are the resources that we need to seize the initiative while building the capacity that
allows for a transition of our forces out of afghanistan. i do not make this decision lightly. i opposed the war in iraq precisely because i believe we must exercise restraint in the use of military force and always consider the long term consequences of our actions. we have been at war now for eight years. an enormous cost of lives and resources. debate in iraq and terrorism left us in tatters and created a highly polarized partisan for this effort. having experienced the worst economic crisis since the great depression, the american people are focused on building our economy and putting people to work at hochl. most of all, i know this decision asked more of you. a military that, along with your families, is born the heaviest
of all burdens. as president, i signed a letter of condolence to the family of each american who gives their lives in these wars. i have read the letters of parents and spouses of those who deployed. i visited the wounded at walter reid. i went to dover. i see firsthand the terrible ages of war. if i did not think the security of the united states and the safety of the american people were at stake in afghanistan, i would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. so, no, i do not make this decision lightly. i make this decision because i am convinced our security is at stake in afghanistan and pakistan. this is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al qaeda.
it is from here we were attacked on 9/11 and where new attacks are plotted as i speak. this is no idol danger or threat. in the last few months, we have gotten extremists who were sent here to commit new acts of terror. this danger will only grow if the region slides backward and al qaeda can operate with impunity. we must keep the pressure on al qaeda. to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region. of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. this is not just america's war. since 9/11, al qaeda's safe havens have be a source of london and bali. the people and government of afghanistan and pakistan are in
danger. the stakes are higher within a nuclear armed pakistan because we know al qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons and have every reason to believe they would use them. these facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. our overarching goal remains the same, disrupt, dismantle and defeat al qaeda in afghanistan and pakistan and prevent its capacity to threaten them in the future. to meet the goal, we will pursue the following objectives in afghanistan. we must deny al qaeda. we must deny the ability to overthrow the government and strengthen afghanistan's government to take responsibility for afghanistan's future. we will meet the objectives in three ways. first, we will pursue a military
strategy that will break the taliban's momentum and increase the ka pcapacity over 18 months. the 30,000 troops will deploy in the first part of 2010. the fastest possible pace, so they can target the insurgency in key population centers. they will increase our ability to train forces and partner with them so more afghans get into the fight and help create the conditions for the united states to transfer responsibility to the afghans. because this is an international effort, i have asked that our commitment will joined by contributions from our allies. some provided additional troops and were confident there would be more in the days and weeks ahead. our friends fought, bled and died in front of us in afghanistan.
now, we must come together to end the war successfully. what's at stake is not simply a test of nato's credibility. what's at stake is the security of our allies and the common security of the world. taken together, these additional american and international troops will allow us to accelerate responsibility to afghan forces and allow the transfer of our forces out of afghanistan in july, 2011. just as we have done in iraq, we will execute this transition responsibility, taking into account conditions on the ground. we'll continue to advise and assist security forces to ensure they can succeed over the long haul. it will be clear to the afghan government and more importantly to the afghan people. they will be responsible for their own country. second, we will work with our
partners, the united nations and the afghan people to pursue a civilian strategy so the government can take advantage of improved security. it must be based on performance. the days of providing a blank check are over. president karzai's speech sent a great message about moving in the right direction. we will be clear about what we expect. we'll support afghan ministries, governors and leaders who combat destruction for the people. we expect those ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. we will also focus our assistance on agriculture, that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the afghan people. now, the people of afghanistan endured violence for decades. they have been confronted with occupation by the soviet union,
foreign al qaeda fighters who used afghan land for their own purposes. tonight, i want the afghan people to understand, america seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. we have no interest in occupying your country. respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. we will seek a partnership with afghanistan grounded in mutual respect, to isolate those who destroy. to strengthen those who build. to hasten the day when our troops will leave and force a lasting friendship, in which america is your partner, never your patron. third. we will act with the full recognition that our success in afghanistan is inextranscribeably linked with
pakistan. we are in afghanistan to prevent a cancer from, once again, spreading throughout the country. this same cancer is taken root in pakistan. that's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border. in the past, there have been those in pakistan that argued the struggle is not their fight. the pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those seeking violence. in recent years, as innocence has been killed, it has become clear it's the pakistani people most in danger. p public opinion turned. the pakistani army waged an offensive. there's no doubt the united states and pakistan share a common enemy. in the past, we too often defined our relationship with
pakistan narrowly. those days are over. we are committed to a partnership with pakistan built on mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust. we will strengthen them to fight those who threaten our ku countries. we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and intentions are clear. america is providing resources to support pakistan's democracy and development. we are the largest international supporter for those pakistani's displaced in the fighting. going forward, the pakistani people must know, america will remain a supporter long after the guns have fallen sigh let so the great potential of its people can be unleashed. these are the three core
elements of our strategy. an effort for a transition. a civilian surge that reinforces positive action, an effective partnership with pakistan. i recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach. let me briefly address a few more arguments i have heard and which i take seriously. first, there are those who suggest afghanistan is another vietnam. they argue it cannot be stabilized. we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawaling. i believe this depends on a false reading of history. unlike vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations. unlike vietnam, we are not facing a broad basd popular insurgency. the american people were viciously attacked from
afghanistan and remain a target for the same extremists plotting along the border. to abandon this area now, and to rely only on efforts against al qaeda from a distance would significantly hamper the ability to keep the pressure on al qaeda and create an unacceptable risk of attacks on our homeland and allies. second. there are those who acknowledge we can't leave afghanistan in its current state, but suggest we go forward with the troops we already have. this would simply maintain a status quo which we muttle through and permit a slow deterioration there. it would prove more costly and prolong our stay in afghanistan because we would never be able to generate the security needed and give them the space to take
over. finally, there are those who oppose identifying time frame for our transition to afghan responsibility. indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of war effort. one that commits us to a nation building project of up to a decade. i reject this because it sets goals beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost. furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us a sense of urgency in working with the afghan government. it must be clear that afghans will have to take responsibility for security and america has no interest in fighting an endless war in afghanistan. as president, i refuse to set goals that go beyond our
responsibility, our means or our interests. i must weigh all the challenges our nation faces. i don't have the luxury of committed to one. i'm mindful of the words of president eisenhower, who said each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration. the need to maintain balance in and among national programs. over the past several years, we have lost that balance. we failed to appreciate the connection between our national secu security and economy. in the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. too many americans are worried about the future facing our children. meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.
all told by the time i took office, the cost of the wars in iraq and afghanistan approached $1 trillion. going forward, i am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. our new approach in afghanistan is likely to cost roughly $30 billion for the military this year. i'll work closely with congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit. as we end our war in iraq in transition to afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. our prosperity provides a foundation for power. it pays for military, under writes diplomacy, allows investment in new industry and awill allow us to compete in this sen chi as we did in the past. our commitment cannot be open ended. the nation that i'm most
interested in building is our own. now, let me be clear. none of this will be easy. the struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly and extends well beyond afghanistan and pakistan. there will be an enduring test of our free society and leadership in the world. unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that define the 20th century. our effort will involve fail ed states, diffused enemies. america will have to show our strength in the way we end wars and prevent conflict, not how we wage wars. we'll have to be nimble and precise in our use in military power. al qaeda and allies accomplish a foothold in somalia or yemen or
elsewhere, they must be confronted by pressure and strong partnerships. we can't count on military might alone. we have to invest in our homeland security. we can't capture and kill every violent extremist abroad. we have to improve and better coordinate. we have to stay one step ahead. we have to take away the tools of mass destruction. that's why i made it a central pillar or foreign policy to secure terrorists, stop the spread of nuclear weapons, pursue the goal of a world without them. every nation must understand true security will not come from an endless race. it comes from those who reject them. wii eel have to use diplomacy. no one nation can meet the
challenges of a world acting alone. i forged new partnerships. we have forged a new beginning between america and the muslim world. a mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict. those who kill innocence are isolated. those who stand-up for peace, prosperity and human dignity. for the challenges we faced may have changed. the things we believe in must not. that's why we must promote our values by living them at home. it's why i prohibited torture and will close the prison at guantanamo bay. we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world that america will speak out on behalf of their human rights for freedom, justice and
the dignity for all people thachlt is who we are. that is the source, the moral source of america's authority. since the days of frankly roosevelt and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents. we have spilled american blood in many kucountries on multiple continents. we have spent our revenue to help others rebuild and develop their own economies. we have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions from the united nations to the world bank that provide for the prosperity of human beings. we have not always been thanked for these efforts. we have, at times, made mistakes.
but, more than any other nation, the united states of america has underwritten global security for six decades. a time that for all its problems has seen walls come down and markets open and billions lifted from poverty, unparra leled scientific progress and human liberty. for unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. our union was founded in resistance to pressure. we do not seek to occupy other nations. we will not claim other resources because their faith is different from ours. what we are fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren. we believe their lives will be better if other people's
children and grandchildren live in freedom and access opportunity. as a country, we are not as young and perhaps not as innocent as we were when roosevelt was president. we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. now, we must summon all of our might and moral to reach the challenges of a new age. in the end, our security and leadership does not come from the strength of arms. it derrives from our people, the workers to rebuild our economy.
researchers to pioneer our industries. from the teachers who educate our children. from the diplomats and peace corps volunteers. from the men and women in uniform, who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that's made government of the people, by the people and for the people a reality on this earth. this vast and diverse citizenry will not agree on every issue, nor should we. i know we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split by the same ranker and
cynicism and partnership that has at times poisoned our discourse. it's easy to forget, when this war began, we were united. bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack. by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. i refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. i believe -- [ applause ] >> i believe, with every fiber of my being, that we, as americans can come together behind a common purpose. for our values are not simply words written into parchment. they are a creed that calls us together and has carried us through the darkest of storms as
one nation, as one people. america, we are passing through a time of great trial. the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear. our cause is just, our resolve unwaivering. we will go forward with the confidence that right makes right. an american that is safer, a world for secure and a future that represents not the deepest of fears, but the highest of hopes. thank you, god bless you and god bless the united states of america. thank you very much. thank you. ♪ the president of the united states having spoken to the cadets at eisenhower hall at west point saying, in short, in afghanistan, the status quo is not sustainable.
we are in afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. the first one seventh of his speech, roughly, was a recap of how badly this nation dropped the ball in afghanistan in the last eight years, seven years. he admitted at one point the election in afghanistan was marred by fraud. yet, he said, 30,000 troops must go through with as rapid a deployment as possible. some will be be next month. then, the return of all those troops and our commitment in afghanistan, the current commitment of 60,000 plus troops will begin by july of 2011. the additions and the end date announced simultaneously within seconds of each other after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
keith olbermann in new york. i'm joined by chris matthews and rachel maddow. rachel, as i suggested before, threading the needle. the world sees a commitment. the pentagon get as commitment and it comes with a stopwatch. was the needle threaded, in your opinion? >> in a very big picture way, it may have been. the thing that's most striking about the speech is there was not a lot of poetry in the speech, this was pros. we are used to not only hearing poetry from our presidents and leaders about issues on the military and war, we are used to slogans. it was pragmatic, talking about balancing military costs against other costs the nation must bear. very pragmatic, down to earth,
not soaring. >> chris, the practicality of the speech, versus previous. was that a deliberate choice, do you think? >> well, it lacked the lift of a driving dream, that's for sure. i felt he inherited a job, he didn't necessarily like. i reminded myself of a line by the former mayor of new york, john lindsay, years ago, who said there's no republican way to collect garbage. it was like somebody has to do this thing. i think the problem is, remember the alamo or remember pearl harbor, there's no sense of going after a clear-cut enemy. we're going to fight the taliban and afghanistan so the government and pakistan will understand we are with them, then they will fight al qaeda in pakistan. it seems like a real indirect
war. who are we actually going to war with and killing? we are supposed to kill the taliban so the people in pakistan will kill their taliban and prevent al qaeda from staying there. we know the enemy is in pakistan, they are al qaeda. why are we fighting the taliban in afghanistan. it's so indirect. it requires a chain reaction to follow our life in treasure. then, we are not sure it will happen. it's a difficult case to make. i don't know whether he made it. i don't know if he did. >> chris, it's a great point. rachel you have been studying that. what we can do in afghanistan relative to what we can't do in pakistan. is this the closest he can throw the dart? is chris' point underscoring the problem as opposed to selling the truth here? >> i think chris has hit on one of the major problems for the
administration in making a coherent case of why we are not leaving. why we need to stay to the middle of 2011. you saw it in a way the president fudged the two countries together. in his rhetoric, we are in afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that kucountry. the same cancer has tacken root in the border of pakistan. talking about the border region as if it's someplace that's neither here or there, afghanistan or pakistan. we have a war in both places. one fought by the army and marine corps in afghanistan and one by the cia. it's a secret branch of our military. >> so, chris, in that context and the point you made, how is this going to play in a nation that is statistically divided and not necessarily on party
lines on the overall concept of maintaining the force in afghanistan, let alone growing it by 30,000. >> we have been talking agent the problem there. it's the only reason we are fighting in afghanistan is al qaeda in pakistan. it's a hard case to make. it's more sophisticated. it's not the left versus the right. a lot of people are against the war. the independents shifting away from the president are against the war. if you get, say, a lot of opposition in the next 24 hours from what we call the left, the people who were with the president when he was elected, it won't help him with the center. this isn't a sister soldier moment where he picks a fight with the left and the right likes him. the dick cheney's are going to not like him. the left is against the war.
he could be a president alone tomorrow, politically, at home. >> i have to say, i disgreechlt i think politically, he's pleased the left saying it's going to start ending on this specific date. he's pleased the conservatives of the world saying i'm sending more people for the second time in a year. i think he's neutralized it. i don't think anybody is going to be delighted, but i don't think anybody is going to go after him. >> does that -- >> i think they are going to call him a reluctant warrior. i'm going by what dick cheney, what seems to be the rear guard, if you will, or the tail gunner of the bush administration blasting away today in politico in the special interview he gave them where he attacks the president for what he's going to do, come into the war reluctantly. >> dick cheney's comments, which
include the definition of treason were too far out there. but, this does underscore a point about conflict and not that an entire generation has grown up like this, but it has been eight years since we started something and this president is restarting afghanistan and the idea that the country might -- that lack of support might be tepid, the protests against a war might be trep id. it's, for nothing else, it's at least a realistic tone, i think, from a president to a country. and from a country back to a president. >> i think it's true of most wars. they start with a lot of excitement. i remember the scene in "gone with the wind" where the rebels
are excited about going to war with the north. it's such a population advantage. they are going to lose the war eventually. in this case, there's not a lot of excitement. i watched the cadets. i didn't see much excitement. among the older people there, i saw, if not resentment, skepticism. i didn't see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there. the president chose to address tonight. i thought it was interesting. he went to the enemy camp tonight to make his case. that's where paul used to write speeches for. so, i thought it was a strange venue. >> i think you are right, chris. we are used to seeing bumper sticker speeches by george w. bush in front of military
audiences. one important observation made is how many times he spoke before military audiences. there was a great article about it in the washington post. president obama, today, talking agent balancing the military against our other needs as a nation is an antibumper sticker. it doesn't bring crowds to its feet. it's the most adult thing. >> i guess, in total, the message to those cadets in west point and their leaders was i respect you have a job to do and you are going to go do it. i'm going to give it to you in detail for the next 35 minutes. thanks to you both. the "rachel maddow show" will be live at 10:00 p.m. eastern.
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yes, 30,000 more troops are going. some will focus on training. what general mcchrystal wants to do is put them in areas to secure the afghan population. the military can go in and clear out. it can hold the areas well. then, the afghan government has to fulfill its end of the bargain. it's got to stamp out corruption. we have to find a way to train the forces. one out of every four recruits goes awol. can we get enough civilians to start generating economic development and fulfill programs. there are a lot of big ifs there. i think, you know, the military is going to be able to get out and do what it does. we are not going to have a degree of stability unless the afghan government and u.s.
government does things differently. we didn't hear plans on that. >> the president mentioned the most recent election was riddled by fraud. they met a standard. there was a report last night. i don't know if it's been reported elsewhere. much of the interaction with government authorities will be around the karzai government, not through it that will go regionally, town to down, when it comes to handing out money. could that work? well, this is a delicate dance the administration is going to try to play out here over the next many months. it's indeed, accurate. they are not saying it publicly. they don't want to stick a big stick in the eye of president karzai, but a big emphasis here
is going to be working directly with governors, district governors. and working at the local level. addressing the problems with corruption and inefficiency, if they get rid of kabul. there's a potential blowback. president karzai could feel he's being marginalized. >> on the ground as literally on the ground as you can get, an issue of the view of afghanistan is we are an ok pieing force. we need to make it plain there. you may view us that way. we have now booked our flights home. if we go before things are shaped up here in afghanistan, you will have occupiers. is that the sell to people on a
door to door people in afghanistan and will it work? >> it's one message. the administration is trying to deliver another message. all of you afghans sitting on the fence, who have been unwilling to really commit to the central government because you are worried we are going to leave and you'll get your throat slit. hey, we are here to help you. at the same time, by announcing this july 2011 timetable to start pulling back, it could have a mixed impact there. so, you are dealing with the concern of occupation, but the concern that the afghan people don't trust their government. they don't know whether they should take the risk to work with them. unfortunately, what we might have done tonight is sending a mixed message. afghans may come away a bit confused.
>> is the connection, he used the cancer analogy. are we shooting tat wrong target? >> well, the problem is that, you know, the pakistani taliban, those causes real challenges to a nuclear armed neighbor of afghanistan, the biggest security challenge they face is we can't get troops in there, at least not officially. the hope is that, if you at least try to create a degree of stability in afternoon, it deprives the insurgents and terrorists on the other side of the border from a safe haven they could operate to further destabilize the government. it's another big if that's tied into this discussion. >> it's always a great privilege to have your perspective.
let's turn to richard wolffe of msnbc. richard, good evening. >> good evening, keith. how did we get to this point here with this vague, even in terms of what the goal was, is it the border of pakistan, is it afghanistan, are you talking to a legitimate government? how did we get politically and within the obama administration as opposed to the other alternatives to doing 10,000 trainers to an immediate pullout? >> the easy way to say it is it's been a mess for eight years. dealing with it now is messy. there are multiple messages to multiple audiences. we saw the president talking to the camera. really, this speech isn't about the surge, it's about one keyword in it, transition. the core is to get out.
apart from taking on al qaeda, which is the main goal here, every other element, beating the taliban, having security forces there, it's about what they call transition, but it's withdrawal. frame thag is tricky. it's tricky to say we are ready to withdrawal when it is a mess on the ground. everything, whether dealing with kabul, the local governors, pakistan is framing it around withdrawal. that's the challenge this president has faced. it's a complex argument. >> it's obviously a high speed argument for the military to deal with, not one impressed upon him. did the pentagon bring that on themselves? the troop request didn't fall from the sky. did that lead to this, tonight? >> well, there has been a lot of turmoil behind the scenes about
the leaks that played out. unusual to see a national security debate played out. people in the white house have various suspicions about where it came from and who is in charge of it. this is the strategy here, you will execute it. you have to trust the commanders on the ground to dplifr it. there's no frame work here in bush language about good versus evil, even about the human rights piece of the taliban. that's why the end date is important. it is saying, this isn't open ended. the military wants more and longer. it's not about the perfect democracy in afghanistan. >> selling this, this is the broad part of it. there are so many details that's gotten out. abc reported the karzai
government was going to -- dan rather reported about soft power, going to village elders saying what do you want to use most. do you need a retaining wall? what do you want. >> our own reporting, this will be through the budgeting process. no supplements. congress getting oversights. does it get rolled out in the days and weeks to come? why wasn't it addressed tonight? >> the most important note was an old tactic he used. say i saying there's been a poisonous effect on the national debate. >> having him rise from that in washington, was effective in the campaign. >> it gives him authority. how long it lasts is a debate.
saying to the american people i understand the value, the force, the power of this country comes from the economy and i hear you are suffering when it comes to the economy. that's the note he has to strike. the last fourth was about the domestic concern. >> the first seventh of it was about how badly we screwed this up to this point. richard wolffe, great thanks as always. >> thank you, keith. our reaction ahead of tonight's escalation of the war in afghanistan. much more ahead in terms of reaction and the political c conflict.