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More Troops Needed, Says Afghan Diplomat 

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Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States has called for President Obama to adopt a clear counterinsurgency strategy for his country, and to back it up with the deployment of additional troops. In an interview with VOA's Gary Thomas, he says the intelligence agencies of neighboring Pakistan were involved in the recent attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Ambassador Said Jawad told VOA sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan would be viewed in Kabul as what he calls a clear commitment to success against the resurgent Taliban.

"We need space and room to train additional Afghan forces, and the current strength and composition of the Afghan and international forces are not adequate to confront the existing challenges," he said. "We do need additional troops, certainly. Afghans would like to see the enemy defeated, which is terrorism and extremism. They don't want to see the friends of Afghanistan being doubtful about their mission and resolution."

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President Obama is engaged in deep discussions with his advisors on how to proceed in Afghanistan. There are now about 65,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and that number is expected to rise to 68,000 by the end of this year.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, strongly favors sending additional forces to bolster a counterinsurgency strategy, and some reports say he has asked for 40,000 more troops. But some Obama advisors have questioned whether that kind of troop increase will achieve the goal of defeating the Afghan Taliban.

Christine Fair, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University, says simply sending more troops is not the answer to the Obama administration's Afghan conundrum.

"My view, and I have been very clear on this, is that we could send an additional 100,000, 300,000 troops, but without a competent, capable, transparent government in Kabul that is more interested in governance rather than graft, we are not going to win this. It undermines everything that we try to do," said Fair.

The Afghan government in general has been dogged by charges of corruption, including alleged involvement by some officials in the illicit narcotics trade. And the recent presidential election has been marred by allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

Ambassador Jawad admits there was some fraud, but points out that the election was carried out under wartime conditions with Taliban intimidation of voters. As for graft, he denies that foreign assistance to Afghanistan is being stolen on any systematic scale.

"Most the corruption that is taking place in Afghanistan is in the form of petty corruption on the roads, shakedowns by the police and others - not so much waste or abuse the major donor funding that is coming into Afghanistan for the reconstruction purposes," said Ambassador Jawad.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the October 8 attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 17 people. A similar attack in the same spot last year killed nearly 60 people.

Ambassador Jawad says Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, had some role in both, a charge Pakistan has strongly denied.

"Look, if the target was not India, why didn't they actually park the car on the other side of the street, which is our Ministry of Interior? So there is the evidence on the ground, and the history of such attacks, points directly to the involvement of Pakistan intelligence agencies in this kind of attack," he said.

Georgetown University's Christine Fair says that while ISI involvement is not certain, Pakistan has the motive of trying to stem Indian influence in Afghanistan.

"The Afghans have a huge incentive to blame everything on the ISI," said Fair. "The Indians have a similar incentive. What we do know is that last year - basically because the U.S. government said as much - that the attack on the Indian Embassy then had ISI connections. So, I do not know. I would not be in a position to say that. But even if the Taliban did it, was the executioner [of the attack], it did not mean that it did not have ISI support."

Some of President Obama's advisors are pushing for a more robust counter-terrorism strategy that focuses on eradicating the al-Qaida strongholds along the border inside Pakistan. Such a strategy relies heavily on attacks by unmanned drone aircraft, but also requires support on the ground from the Pakistan military.

Ambassador Jawad says he believes Pakistan's civilian government is committed to clearing safe havens, but doubts what he terms the intention and the sincerity of the Pakistan military to fighting them.