Troop Surge for Afghanistan

Obama has ordered 17,000 more soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan, including the Army’s 5th [A1] Stryker brigade from Ft. Lewis, which is scheduled to deploy this summer, in what Bloomberg [A2] News described as "first phase of deployments to ramp up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan."

Obama only agreed to just over half the amount of troops requested by Gen. David McKiernan, commander in Afghanistan, after he asked what the troops were going to be used for and got "no coherent answer," journalist Gareth Porter [A3] cites a White House source as saying.

Porter wrote that Obama will likely face pressure from the Joint Chiefs to send the rest of the 13,000 troops Gen. McKiernan requested in the near future.

At a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Sec. Gates in late January, Obama specifically asked "What is the end game?" in Afghanistan and was told, "Frankly, we don’t have one," but they were working on it, according to a Feb. 4th report by NBC’s Chief Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski[A4] .

While he said he remains "absolutely convinced" that military means cannot solve the problems of Afghanistan and the Taliban, Obama called Afghanistan "still winnable" and said the escalation of troops was part of a "comprehensive strategy[A5]  that will employ all elements of our national power to fulfill achievable goals in Afghanistan."

The UN reported [A6] a 39% increase in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year from 2007.  Thirty-nine percent were killed by U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces and 55% by militants.

Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai has vocally criticized the U.S. and NATO over the civilian killings[A7] , adding they are "strengthening the terrorists" and are the main cause of instability in the war-torn country. This and Karzai’s opposition to the deployment of more troops has made him unpopular in Washington [A8] and has led to talk [A9] of his [A10] replacement, Patrick Cockburn wrote[A11]  in the Independent.

Clancy Chassay of the Guardian [A12] reported that millions of dollars of donor aid, allocated to fix places like the Kabul hospital for example, which has no running water or heating and crumbling infrastructure, are "missing." Local health officials and Afghans alleged that foreign consultants from the US, Germany, and other countries as well as the UN and other aid agencies [A13] are involved in mismanagement and corruption.

February 15 marked the 20-year anniversary of the day the Soviets left Afghanistan after losing 15,000 soldiers during a 9-year invasion and occupation, Jonathan Steele, the only Western journalist in Kabul at the time, wrote in the Guardian[A14] .

U.S. and NATO forces face more challenges than the Soviets did said Steele, with the Taliban, suicide bombings, and the country in more chaos than 20 years ago.

"The real lesson of the Soviet war is that in Afghanistan political and cultural disunity can slide into massive and prolonged violence," Steele wrote.  "Foreigners intervene at their peril."


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