U.S. Needs To Push For Bigger Afghan Army, Then Withdraw

The Bush administration, in the midst of a wide review of its war strategy in Afghanistan, is likely to recommend soon to the incoming Obama administration that the U.S. push for further expansion of the Afghan army as the surest path to an eventual U.S. withdrawal.

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

Afghan men work on a house destroyed in alleged airstrikes in ... 
Afghan men work on a house destroyed in alleged airstrikes in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said airstrikes had caused deaths in the district. The U.S. military said it was investigating the report.(AP/Photo/Allauddin Khan)

It’s too late in President Bush’s tenure for a major change of direction in Afghanistan, but the White House wants to produce a kind of road map for the next administration, not just in terms of military effort but also in other areas such as integrating U.S. and international civilian and military aid.

The strategy review, which began in September amid increasing militant violence and a growing U.S. and allied death toll, is being coordinated at the White House and is expected to be presented by December. Defense officials would discuss emerging conclusions only on condition of anonymity because it is not yet completed.

The Bush administration is likely to endorse fulfilling a standing request by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, for about 20,000 additional U.S. troops in 2009. But it has concluded that the emphasis increasingly should be on Afghan forces taking the lead.

A chief advocate of focusing more on speeding the training and equipping of a bigger Afghan army is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said last week that it represents the long-term answer in Afghanistan.

Gates also has emphasized limiting the depth of U.S. military involvement in a country that has ground down foreign armies over centuries of conflict.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) speaks with Central ... 
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) speaks with Central Intelligence Dircetor Michael Hayden during the swearing in ceremony for Mike McConnell as National Intelligence Director in Washington, DC in 2007. Hayden said Wednesday that the US intelligence agency would begin sharing classified information with president-elect Barack Obama during a transition phase up to his inauguration.(AFP/File/Jim Watson)

“We will be making a terrible mistake if this ends up being called America’s war,” Gates said Oct. 31 after presiding at a ceremony in Tampa, Fla., where Gen. David Petraeus was installed as head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility includes Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

“What I would like to see, and, I think, what everybody would like to see, is the most rapid possible further expansion of the Afghan military forces because this needs to be an Afghan war, not an American war and not a NATO war,” Gates told reporters.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081107/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_afghanistan;
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