President Obama’s plan to turn over Afghan security to the Afghans themselves by mid 2011 is getting support as well as criticism.
Mr. Obama on Tuesday announced plans to deploy another 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, beginning early next year. But he also said the increased U.S. military presence there will not be open-ended. He said he wants to complete the mission by 2011 and bring U.S. troops home at that time. Such a move would lead to a transfer of security operations to the Afghan government. “They will ultimately be responsible for their own country," the president said.
“The principle of having the Afghans take over responsibility for security has been proven to work,” said Marin Strmecki of the Smith Richardson Foundation. He pointed to Afghan security successes in the city of Kabul and during recent elections.
Strmecki says up to now, the Afghanistan government has not had enough troops on the ground. “The size of the Afghan force has been artificially constrained to numbers that very early on were set with a very benign security environment,” he said.
Former U.S. NATO Ambassador Kurt Voelker agrees the Afghan forces need to be bolstered. “Institutions like an Afghan military, an Afghan police force and a local governance, all of these things together we hope add up to a stronger Afghanistan,” he said.
Critics say it is unrealistic to expect the Afghans to be prepared for the planned 2011 drawdown of U.S. troops. Republican Senator John McCain called the deadline "arbitrary" and said it sends the wrong message to both friends and enemies.
But the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal supports the plan.
Strmecki likes the higher troop levels advocated by McChrystal. “I think if you carry out the McChrystal approach, which is based on population security at the local level and partnering Afghan forces with international forces so they move up the learning curve very rapidly…I think you can defeat the Taliban,” Strmecki said.
The Taliban is unpopular with the Afghan people, said Strmecki. And that makes it very hard for them to challenge an enduring security presence in any part of Afghanistan.