From NBC's Mark Murray
As we await President Obama's Af-Pak speech tomorrow, it's worth remembering that he already gave one back on March 27 -- in which he talked about sending more troops there (a combined 21,000, including ones to help train Afghan forces), about the benchmarks that Afghanistan's government must meet, and about U.S. goals for Afghanistan.
This does raise the question: Is tomorrow's speech just going to rehash what we already heard back in March? What's going to be new -- beyond 21,000 troops vs. some 30,000 troops? (A senior administration official did tell the New York Times that there will be new information from the president. "It's accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion.")
*** UPDATE *** Our own Chuck Todd asked this very question to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today. Gibbs' response: Obama's speech tomorrow will have "new wrinkles."
Obama back in March on more troops to Afghanistan:
"I've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border. This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August… For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training. And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq. Now, that will change. The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces."
On Pakistan's role:
"[T]he security of America and Pakistan is shared. Pakistan's government must be a stronger partner in destroying these safe havens, and we must isolate al Qaeda from the Pakistani people. And these steps in Pakistan are also indispensable to our efforts in Afghanistan, which will see no end to violence if insurgents move freely back and forth across the border."
On benchmarks for Afghanistan government:
"And I want to be clear: We cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders. Instead, we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior, and sets clear benchmarks, clear metrics for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people."
On U.S. goals:
"Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We'll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan's economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals."