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President Barack Obama met last October 30 with his top military commanders to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as he considers whether to send thousands of more troops to the war torn country. Some analysts in Washington say the primary question is whether the Afghan war is still a war of necessity as Mr. Obama has maintained, and if it serves U.S. national interests.
President Obama saw the war's impact first hand when he visited a U.S. military base in Dover, Delaware to witness the return of 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan.
"Obviously it was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day. Not only our troops, but their families as well," Mr. Obama said.
The war weighs heavily on the president's administration as he considers whether to follow the advice of his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for 40,000 additional U.S. troops.
Journalist Bob Woodward says President Obama must weigh U.S. national interests, and the first interest is preventing another al-Qaida attack. He says because of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the terrorist group can not use it as a base to attack the U.S.
The second is regional stability.
"The question then becomes what are you willing to pay and expend for that regional stability or stability specifically in Afghanistan," Woodward stated, "If you look at it from that end it tends to take you away from giant troop commitments."
Some say the U.S. needs more troops in Afghanistan in order to avoid mission failure. Tony Cordesman is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington:
"If you lose the country you have a power vacuum on the border of a nuclear-armed Pakistan, a state which in many ways has extraordinary internal divisions and weaknesses and problems of its own. You have the similar problems in Central Asian countries," Cordesman said.
Journalist Mariam Wahabi also fears a power vacuum. She says the West should not forget the sacrifices of U.S.-backed Afghan fighters when they fought against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.
"I think as Americans we sometimes forget the cost that the Afghans paid for the freedom of Eastern Europe, that after the Afghans defeated the Soviet Union that people around the world including Americans had more freedom and America's position in the world rose too, becoming the only super power," Wahabi said.
Cordesman says President Obama also needs to send more troops to Afghanistan to safeguard U.S. backed development projects, and to make sure that international aid reaches Afghans who need it. He says the UN aid effort there so far is a mess. "Eight years on, UNAMA has never issued a report that shows how aid money is being spent, where it is going and what the project structure is intended to be," he said, "That is an incredible indictment of the level of management and capability there."
Mr. Obama has spent weeks considering General McChrystal's warning that the war could be lost without more troops. But so far he has not said whether he will grant that request.