<!-- IMAGE -->
Now that Hamid Karzai has been declared the winner of Afghanistan's
presidential elections, attention is again focused on U.S. President
Barack Obama's decision on whether to send more troops to the country.
Analysts and some members of the U.S. Congress are still at odds over
the best way forward.
It has been more than two months since the
top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal,
submitted his report calling for an urgent and significant change in
strategy regarding the war in Afghanistan.
reported to have requested 40,000 more troops to mount a
counterinsurgency campaign designed to provide security for the Afghan
The general says failure to gain the initiative and
reverse the momentum currently held by the insurgents in the next 12
months could lead to the failure of the overall mission.
Max Boot is a senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
are committed to a war in Afghanistan," he said. "I think the question
now is are we going to be committed to winning it? Or are we going to
just muddle along as we have currently been doing with enough troops to
generate casualties on all sides, but not enough to win."
agree that a successful counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
requires a credible government that is seen as legitimate by the Afghan
people, and widespread irregularities in the recent Afghan election
undercut the process.
Many expect the United States will now try
to bolster the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, pushing
for anti-corruption measures and an inclusive government.
Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry says the conclusion of the
election process is a new opportunity for the international community
to work with Afghan leaders.
"And very serious efforts [need to
be] made and very serious progress made in trying to improve the
accountability of the government," he said. "Really fight the problem
of corruption take it head-on and deal with it. And we, the
international community, we have role to play in this."
U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Alex Thier warns if troops are
withdrawn prematurely from Afghanistan the country will fall back into
civil war, the Taliban will take over part of the country and the
entire region will be further destabilized.
"I think that those
consequences are so grim and grave for us, not to mention all of the
thousands of Afghans that we have worked with to educate, female
parliamentarians that we have got elected in the last year, girls
schools that we have built, all of this will go up in a puff of smoke
and we will stand by and watch that," he said.
But there are powerful opponents in the U.S. Congress of any major troop increase in Afghanistan.
Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says
before sending more U.S. combat troops, large numbers of additional
Afghan forces need to be trained.
"These soldiers constitute
their country's most trusted public institution," he said. "Opinion
polls show that the Afghan army has the strong support of the Afghan
people and is vastly more popular than the Taliban, whose support is in
Senator Levin says he does not want U.S. soldiers to be seen as an occupying force in Afghanistan.
of our own combat presence could feed a Taliban propaganda machine that
seeks to portray the forces arrayed against them, not as a home grown
domestic effort to prevent the return of a detested extremist regime,
which is what it is, but as the effort of a foreign occupier," he said.
President Obama announced his Afghan strategy last March he said the
clear American goal is to defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan
and to prevent their return to either country in the future.
officials say the president's decision on General McChrystal's request
for more troops is expected in the coming weeks.