Attention Intensifies on Afghan War Strategy
21 October 2009
Now that Afghan election officials have agreed to a presidential runoff
vote on November 7, attention will intensify on U.S. President Barack
Obama's difficult decision about whether to send more American troops
to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has been waiting for the election dispute to
be resolved before announcing his new war strategy.
fighting continues to rage, U.S. officials stated repeatedly the
election process had to be settled before President Barack Obama could
make a reasoned decision about sending additional troops and resources
Administration officials say the United States
needs to make sure it has a credible partner in the Afghan government
before any change in strategy.
Analysts say the runoff election will add credibility to the new government and Mr. Obama applauded the move.
|President Barack Obama (file photo)|
Karzai, as well as the other candidates, I think, have shown that they
have the interests of the Afghan people at heart, that this is a
reflection of a commitment to rule of law and an insistence that the
Afghan people's will should be done," said the president.
officials are scrambling to organize the new ballot as the fierce
Afghan winter approaches and the country faces a growing threat from
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel has advised President Obama on Afghan policy. "We have got to make sure that this second round is not marred by fraud and corruption like the first round," he said.
says U.S. and NATO troops are facing a syndicate of terrorism in
Afghanistan and Pakistan consisting of different groups like the
Taliban and al-Qaida.
"The status quo in Afghanistan right now
is not sustainable. We are losing this war. It is not yet lost but we
are losing this war," he said.
Many members of the U.S. Congress
that have expressed concern about sending additional troops to
Afghanistan are, like President Obama, Democrats.
Some argue the
widespread corruption in Afghanistan is undermining support in the
United States for the war and the proposal to send more soldiers.
least the question that should be put to Congress is not about troop
levels and I do not think Congress right now would be very receptive,
the majority of Congress, to a request for more troops," said
California Congresswoman Jane Harman. "The question that should be put
to Congress is how we can partner with this administration to reduce
the rampant levels of corruption in Afghanistan."
The United States has nearly 68,000 troops in Afghanistan and there are about 40,000 from NATO and other allied countries.
|A US Marine (R) walks with an Afghan National Army local commander in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, 05 Oct 2009|
top NATO and American commander there, General Stanley McChrystal, has
warned the United States could lose the conflict if additional military
forces are not deployed.
Analysts arguing against an increase say a larger troop presence would lead to a drop in support from the Afghan people.
veteran Paul Pillar, who is now a professor of security studies at
Georgetown University, says public opinion in Afghanistan is already
"Why is this happening? I think it is number one, the
perception that we have become occupiers, like the Soviets were, rather
than liberators or protectors of Afghanistan. And number two because
of the inevitable collateral damage that occurs from even the most
carefully planned and skillfully executed military operations," he said.
debate about strategy and troop strength is occurring as 30,000
Pakistani troops are launching a massive military operation in South
Waziristan, along the border with Afghanistan.
The remote and
rugged tribal region is a global hub for militants, who are staging
suicide attacks in Pakistan and frequently cross the border to fight
NATO and American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Michael O'Hanlon specializes in U.S. national security policy at the Brookings Institution.
the first time ever we have the chance to put al-Qaida and related
groups between a hammer and an anvil," he said. "We have a chance to
go after them in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I want to do that."
officials say it has not been determined whether the president will
decide on a new strategy before the Afghan runoff election. They say
the strategy is to be determined in the coming weeks.