Obama to review Afghan strategy, approve troop increase: report

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama intends to agree to Pentagon plans to send up to 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan in order to gain time to review the conflict, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.According to the Post, which cites unnamed senior Obama team members and Bush administration officials, the goal is not for an Iraq-like "surge" but rather to gain time for a fresh look at US goals and develop a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan. The new deployments would nearly double the current US force in Afghanistan of 32,000 troops. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said on December 20 in Kabul that Washington plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by mid-2009. General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, had asked for more than 20,000 extra US soldiers to counter a rise in insurgent violence, seven years after US forces first invaded the country to oust the Taliban from power. Obama, who takes office on January 20, has vowed to boost development in Afghanistan and shift the focus of the "war on terror" from Baghdad to Kabul. "We have no strategic plan. We never had one," an unnamed senior US military commander told the Post, describing the Afghan strategy under President George W. Bush. According to the Post, the outlines of the new Obama strategy will not likely emerge before early April, when Afghanistan and Pakistan will top the agenda at a NATO summit in France. Obama hopes to present the Europeans a comprehensive plan and then ask them for increased military and financial contributions. "What they've got to say is 'Okay, if you love Obama, show us how much'," another retired senior military officer told the Post. There are currently between 60,000 and 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about three-quarters of them under NATO command, helping the government of President Hamid Karzai battle a mounting Taliban-led insurgency.


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