2009 News of the Nation - Obama's First Year
Major U.S. news stories from the recession to same-sex marriage
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President Obama's First Year
A Landmark Inauguration
War in Iraq Nearing Its End; Efforts in Afghanistan Redoubled
The war in Afghanistan, however, is far from over. In December, Obama revealed his plan for a troop surge to the troubled country. The U.S. military will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan beginning in January to thwart a resurgent Taliban, help train Afghan troops, and bring security to population centers. This new surge will bring the total number of American soldiers in Afghanistan to 100,000. The president did provide a timeline for withdrawal, stating that a drawdown of troops will begin in July 2011. Obama's Afghanistan strategy was widely perceived as a defining moment in his presidency. Many Americans, though sympathetic to the commitment and the purpose of the war in Afghanistan, were opposed to the escalation. Others who supported the surge as a means to bring Afghanistan closer to stability and independence, saw the president's plan as a mixed message: you can have our support, but only for a limited time.
Education Overhaul on the Agenda
This issue, too, sparked controversy; some state leaders objected to the government's increasing role in education. The use of standardized testing to measure student achievement and teacher success were also contentious.
Environmental Changes Just Beginning
In December, member countries of the United Nations met in Copenhagen to discuss a worldwide reduction of carbon emissions, limits on greenhouse gas pollution, and the preservation of forest across the globe. President Obama supported the measures, but any execution of these changes will have to be addressed in 2010—at the earliest. That same month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that pollution that changes the climate is detrimental to human health and the environment, a major step in the future of limiting greenhouse gasses.
Surprise Award Sparks Curiosity, Criticism
During his acceptance speech in December, Obama acknowledged the apparent irony that he was given a prize for peace while leading a country fighting in two wars, but claimed that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are both necessary and just. He agreed, however, that he had a lot of work ahead of him to improve the lives of Americans and the others around the world.
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