Barack Obama told the US (and the world) that America is sending 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan and the first new Marine boots will be on the ground as early as Christmas - and all new forces will be on station by summer 2010. But the American troops will begin returning within the next 19 months. In a speech at the West Point army military academy that was broadcast prime-time throughout America, Obama sold his Afghan strategy to an increasingly sceptical public by pairing it with a specific “exit strategy”. Obama threaded his way between several dilemmas: congressional support for the war is mostly Republican, not his own party’s; the war’s new costs fly in the face of efforts to deal with the federal deficit and the cost of health care reform; the new troop levels will also need support from increasingly reluctant NATO allies; and a difference of opinion as to whether the US goal is defeating the Taliban insurgents or ending Al Qaeda’s ability to harm Americans. And there is growing concern that a continued connection to the Hamid Karzai regime ties America to a corrupt, incompetent, inefficient Afghan government Read The Daily Maverick analysis later today for more.