Obama Touches on Iraq, Afghanistan in SOTU

Elisabeth Meinecke
Posted: Jan 25, 2011 11:04 PM
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama discussed America’s military actions in the War on Terror -- without calling it that --  and complimented the military’s work in Iraq and Afghanistan in a speech that was strong on rhetoric and short on specifics.

"Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed," Obama said. "This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end."

There was a troubling reference, however, to Pakistan, where Obama's language didn't seem to match a recent report he himself reviewed.

"In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking,” Obama said in his address.

A Bloomberg article from earlier this month, however, has a more sobering take:

"The U.S. president last month concluded a review of the first year of his strategy to boost troops in Afghanistan and increase aid to Pakistan. One finding of the confidential report was that Pakistan had failed to crack down on terrorist havens in North Waziristan, hampering U.S. efforts to end the Afghan war, U.S. officials have said."

Obama also addressed the situation in Afghanistan Tuesday and reaffirmed that  American troops will start coming home this July. He said the U.S. will partner with 50 different countries in the future to help transition to Afghanistan taking more of a lead. He did exert some pressure on the country's leadership, though, saying, "The Afghan government will need to deliver better governance." 

In a letter to troops released the day of the speech, Gen.David Petraeus said the situation in Afghanistan will require the U.S. to increase its support of Afghan officials following the Afghan president's strategy to root out corruption and "the criminal patronage network that undermine the development of effective Afghan institutions."