Afghans welcome Obama strategy

December 2, 2009 12:00 am

, KABUL, Dec 2 – The Afghan government on Wednesday welcomed US President Barack Obama\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s new strategy ordering an extra 30,000 troops into the country in a bid to forge a quick end to the war against the Taliban.

Kabul has long called for the deployment of more than the 112,000 NATO and US troops currently in Afghanistan to crush an insurgency at its deadliest and most widespread since US-led troops ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.

Obama vowed the 30,000 surge would see troops in Afghanistan "seize the initiative" to end the unpopular war and start a pullout in July 2011.

In a major speech unveiling a new fast-track war strategy, Obama pledged for the first time that US forces would start coming home in 19 months, as he groped for an exit from a conflict many backers see as similar to Vietnam.

While the West has warned their engagement in Afghanistan is not open-ended, calling on Kabul to clean up corruption and shoulder more of the burden for security, senior Afghan officials welcomed the new US commitment.

"We are satisfied with the new US strategy. We particularly welcome the reassurance of the United States\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan," senior foreign ministry adviser Daud Muradyan told AFP.

"That\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s more important for us than the additional troops," he said, dismissing comparisons being made in the United States between the conflict in Afghanistan, and US wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

"Additional troops alone cannot be the solution, It can, however, be part of a comprehensive strategy to include other aspects such as pressuring Pakistan, increasing financial support and civilian efforts," he said.

President Hamid Karzai has made taking responsibility for the country\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s security quagmire a major objective of his next five years in office.

Afghanistan wants Pakistan to better seal its porous mountain border and clamp down on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants holed up on Pakistani soil and accused of directing attacks on Afghan and Western troops.

Afghan officials have laid out ambitious plans to boost army and police numbers by up to 400,000 but analysts warn it could take up to another decade to build the expertise of trained personnel in a largely corrupt and illiterate country.

Obama\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s top commander in Afghanistan, who had requested tens of thousands of extra troops to avoid defeat, said he now had "the resources to accomplish our task" and that his "main focus" will be to build up Afghan security forces.

General Stanley McChrystal, who expects to command more than 140,000 NATO and US troops once reinforcements arrive, vowed to transfer responsibility to Afghan security forces "as rapidly as conditions allow."

Afghan officials say there are nearly 100,000 troops in the army, which is projected to grow to 136,000 next year. Karzai allies are calling for up to 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 policemen.

"We\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’re asking the international community to get us that capacity. We\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’re asking them to give us more trainers to train that many police," interior ministry spokesman Zamarai Bashary told AFP on Tuesday.

But General Egon Ramms, a German commander in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, warned last month that police, numbering around 68,000, are prone to corruption and training has been less than efficient.

Out of 94,000 Afghan soldiers trained so far, 10,000 have defected, he said, estimating that 15 percent of the armed forces are drug addicts.


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