By Sam Youngman - 12/01/09 06:43 PM EST
President Barack Obama will announce to the nation Tuesday night that he is sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and that some of those troops will begin to leave in less than two years.
Obama left the White House on Marine One with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates shortly before 6 p.m. for Andrews Air Force Base. He is scheduled to begin his primetime address at about 8 p.m. from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Obama will lay out "sharp timelines" in his speech, senior administration officials said, but he will not set a date for when all U.S. troops are out of the country.
In excerpts of his remarks provided by the White House, Obama said that he is sending the additional troops on “the fastest pace possible -- so they can target insurgency and secure key population centers.”
Obama also said in the excerpts that he has asked for more contributions from U.S. allies, and he expects those contributions will come “in the days and weeks ahead.”
“Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan,” Obama will say. “Now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For 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.”
The White House confirmed earlier Tuesday that Obama has ordered the additional troop deployment expedited so that they are in place by next summer.
On a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials said U.S. troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, but the "slope thereafter is something that will be determined by the commander in chief" as a result of the conditions on the ground.
“Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground,” Obama will say. “We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.”
Officials dismissed the criticism from some Republicans that by setting a timeline for withdrawal, American enemies will simply wait out U.S. involvement.
The 2011 date, officials stressed, is only the "beginning of a process which will be conditions-based."
"So if the Taliban thinks it can wait us out, then I think they're misjudging the president's approach," one official said.
One administration official acknowledged, though, that the dates will be "the most misunderstood and misinterpreted part of this saga."
He added: "It may be misinterpreted, but the Taliban will do that at its own risk."
Administration officials also said they expect NATO to announce in coming days that it too is sending additional forces to Afghanistan.
Obama's new policy, which one official said puts more troops in the country "faster than any option that was presented to him," is multi-tiered and includes assistance both on the security and civilian approaches to Pakistan.
Officials said Obama will stress that the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is not open-ended, and the biggest focus will be on training Afghan security forces so the process of security responsibilities can begin in July 2011 and be completed as soon as possible.
One official said that there are currently 90,000 trained Afghan security personnel and the goal is to have 134,000 trained by 2010.
Obama has ordered U.S. forces to take a "bottom-up" approach to training troops.
Police forces will focus on the regions and
provinces outside of Kabul, particularly in the South and the East and
in other population centers, the officials said.
The first goal of the mission, officials said, is to stop the "momentum" the Taliban has enjoyed for the past two years, but U.S. troops' overriding mission is to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda."
U.S. troops will target insurgents to prevent the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghan government and "in order to [provide] time and space" for the training of Afghan forces.
"This surge, if you will, will be for a defined period of time," one official said.
Officials disputed reports that Obama's goal is to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2012, stating flatly that "is not in the speech."
"We do reaffirm out longterm strategic partnership with Afghanistan, but not with anything like 100,000 troops in their country," one official said.
This story was updated at 7:04 p.m.