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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In his remarks on Afghanistan, the president spoke of a "surge" in troops:

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

On April 2, 2009, Peter Baker reported in The New York Times:
When President Obama briefed Congressional leaders at the White House last week on his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, Senator Harry Reid offered some advice: Whatever you do, he told the president, don’t call it a “surge.”

Not to worry. Mr. Obama didn’t and wouldn’t. The exchange, confirmed by people briefed on the discussion, underscored the sensitivity about language in the new era. Mr. Obama and his team are busily scrubbing President George W. Bush’s national security lexicon, if not necessarily all of his policies.

But the "surge" language crept back into presidential documents. A December 1, 2009 White House fact sheet began:

The President’s speech reaffirms the March 2009 core goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. To do so, we and our allies will surge our forces, targeting elements of the insurgency and securing key population centers, training Afghan forces, transferring responsibility to a capable Afghan partner, and increasing our partnership with Pakistanis who are facing the same threats.

Still, in his West Point address on December 1, 2009 -- his most important previous statement on the topic -- the president avoided calling the military buildup a "surge," instead using the word only for a "civilian surge that reinforces positive action."