U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to start transitioning security responsibilities in Afghanistan to the Afghan forces next August. He also said a drawdown of the U.S. military in Iraq has helped free resources for the war effort in Afghanistan.
President Obama's plans for Afghanistan come against a backdrop of a worsening security situation.
Violence has continued throughout the country, despite the increasing numbers of international troops. Plus, insurgent attacks that primarily had occurred in the Taliban-controlled south have started to appear in what was the relatively peaceful north.
In the face of this, Afghans awoke Wednesday to President Obama's pledge to start a transition of power to the country's security forces next August. Since late last year, Mr. Obama has vowed to start withdrawing U.S. troops next July, depending on security conditions.
He also said the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq has freed resources for the war effort in Afghanistan.
General Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense, told reporters in Kabul that his country welcomes the additional U.S. resources. He said the increasing attention will help create a framework so that the Afghan army can stand on its own, making the transition fast and easy.
But General Azimi said the transition should have come much sooner. He said one of the reasons that the security situation has deteriorated is because attention on Afghanistan waned as the war in Iraq began. He said he believes that conditions at that time in Afghanistan were suitable for the formation of a strong national army and infrastructure. But he adds that the opportunity was missed.
Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies Director Haroun Mir agrees that the country suffered from an insufficient international focus during most of the Iraq War. But he says Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and the international community should not dwell on the past.
"I think it is too late for this blame game. So now we have to focus on using all the resources that are available in Afghanistan in order to improve the Afghan security forces because we all know it will be politically very difficult for the Obama administration to change its strategy," Mir said.
Mir says President Obama's low public approval ratings in the United States show that he cannot afford to delay America's withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite saying that it will depend on conditions on the ground.
He also warns that the U.S. troop pullout will not be smooth because of President Karzai's criticism of the withdrawal plan.
Late last week, Mr. Karzai called President Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin the pullout a "morale boost" for insurgents.
But Mir says the biggest boost for insurgents will come from the government in Kabul, if it fails to stem corruption and provide for Afghanistan's people.