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Obama Faces Tough Task in Outlining Afghanistan Strategy, Experts Say

President Obama answers questions

President Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2009. (Reuters)

President Obama said he intended to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. Now he has to say how.

No sweat? Hardly.

When the president announces his plans for the war Tuesday, he will have plenty of people to convince: frustrated liberals in Congress opposed to any troop surges, Republicans who have questioned Obama's lengthy deliberations and an American public that increasingly is giving up on the eight-year war.

"The president has a tough job on Tuesday," Patrick Murphy, a former adviser to the Clinton administration, told Fox News. "I think what he's doing and has done for the last two or three months is really taken a careful look at the situation and responding with this war of the military."

In his prime-time speech from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, Obama is expected to announce he's sending up to 35,000 more troops -- while trying to affirm he has found a clear path of success in a country known as the graveyard of empires.

The speech caps several weeks of deliberations, including nine meetings with his war council, that has drawn criticism from conservatives who say the deliberative pace has emboldened the Taliban and endangered the troops.

Obama has been weighing whether to grant the request of his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for 40,000 additional troops or to follow his political advisers' advice to scale back the effort and focus on pursuing Al Qaeda in Pakistan while cutting deals with the Taliban.

Foreign policy experts say the strategy must go beyond a change in troop levels.

"The feeling is the number of troops is not to going to change the outcome of the war. It will make a difference but not change it," said Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom and professor of Islamic studies at American University

"What will change the outcome will be a strategy," he said. "President Obama really needs to give a clear cut strategy which ensures a long-term, stable relationship which guards the interest of America, relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that's a difficult order because right now you have unpopular incompetent and corrupt leaders of both Kabul and Islamabad."

Maj. Gen. Bob Scales told Fox News that the troop surge and a political strategy is needed.

"You need the additional troops to get enough boots on the ground to be able to effect any strategy," he said, adding that the strategy needs to "take the initiative away from the enemy," reduce corruption in both countries and train the Afghan security forces.

"Right now, the Afghan army probably has no more than 45,000 effectives," he said. "In order to get the ratios they need, they need about a quarter of a million. That's a lot of troops to train in very little time."

Republican strategist Angela McGlowan told Fox News that NATO will also be closely watching the president's speech Tuesday to determine whether it should stand by the president and commit more troops.

"So the president is going to have a tough night," she said. "He's going to have to use his diplomatic skills. He's going to have be very precise. Why are we still in this war. Why are we doing this war and what should NATO stand fast with the president."