Obama Sending U.S. Military to Liberia -- to Fight Ebola

Patrick Goodenough | September 16, 2014 | 4:33am EDT
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President Obama and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia at the White House on May 27, 2010. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – An anticipated announcement by President Obama on Tuesday to send up to 3,000 military personnel to West Africa as part of a boosted effort to combat Ebola comes a week after Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in a personal appeal, said that without more direct U.S. help, “we will lose this battle.”

U.S. officials briefing media on background said Obama would make the announcement when he visits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said earlier Monday that “I would anticipate that you’ll see an announcement related to ramping up the kind of assistance the United States can provide to try to meet this need.”

Earnest recalled that Obama, in a recent interview, identified the Ebola virus outbreak “as a top national security priority.”

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been the countries hardest hit by the worst-ever outbreak of the often lethal virus. As of Friday, more than 2,400 deaths had been reported to the World Health Organization, which has warned that thousands more infections could be expected in the coming weeks.

In a letter to Obama dated September 9, Sirleaf thanked him for the support the U.S. has already given, but warned of a severe worsening of the situation.

“The virus is spreading at an exponential rate, and we have a limited time window to arrest it,” she said, noting that more than 40 percent of all cases had occurred in the previous 18 days alone.

“To break the chain of transmission, we need to isolate the sick from their families and communities but this is impossible because there is nowhere to take them,” she said.

“I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us.”

Sirleaf appealed to the U.S. to set up and operate at least one Ebola treatment unit in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

“Mr. President at the current rate of infections, only governments like yours have the resources and assets to deploy at the pace required to arrest the spread. Branches of your military and civilian institutions already have the expertise in dealing with biohazards, infectious diseases and chemical agents.”

Sirleaf expressed concern that the health crisis threatened civil order in her country, which only a decade ago emerged from a 30-year civil war.

Sirleaf, who became Africa’s first elected female head of state in 2006, has fostered close relations with Washington.

After President Bush in 2007 announced plans for a unified U.S. Africa Command, she publicly endorse a proposal which many other African leaders opposed, urging others to embrace it and even offering to host the new command’s headquarters.

Amid opposition from countries including regional heavyweights Nigeria and South Africa, USAFRICOM was eventually based in Stuttgart in southern Germany, where European Command is also located.

Bush in 2007 awarded Sirleaf the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award made by the American government, and given for contributions to U.S. security or national interests, world peace, or cultural or other significant endeavors.

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