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With US troop increase, is the Afghanistan war now America's war?

The 7,000 additional troops that 25 NATO countries have committed to the conflict help the Obama administration make the case that the Afghanistan war is an international effort.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 5, 2009



Washington

When the escalation of the war in Afghanistan reaches its peak in about six months, perhaps 140,000 international troops will be on Afghan soil: about 100,000 of them American, the rest from NATO and other countries.

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Does that make Afghanistan an American war?

President Obama's plans to send 30,000 more US troops led some foreign-policy experts to conclude just that. Not only is this Mr. Obama's war, they say, but it is now firmly America's war as well.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Brussels Friday to debunk that thinking by welcoming additional NATO commitments to the war, while encouraging the alliance's 28 member countries to do even more. "This is our fight, together, and we must finish it together," she told assembled NATO foreign ministers.

The 7,000 additional troops that 25 NATO countries have committed to sending should help Secretary Clinton and others in the administration make the case that Afghanistan is an international effort. And some military experts agree that it is wrong to conclude from the numbers that this is America's war.

"This was never just America's war," says William Durch, an expert in peacekeeping operations at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. "Unlike Iraq, it really has been an international effort, and I think the response from NATO is extremely encouraging, especially considering the casualties they have been taking in Afghanistan this year."

The number of forces that European countries are pledging offers a measure of how committed those countries are when the countries' deployable forces are taken into consideration, he adds. "They really don't have that much," Mr. Durch says, "so if they are adding 7,000 to the 32,000 they already have there, this is actually a very large fraction of what they are capable of deploying."

The new strategy announced by Obama, others note, means that more Afghans, particularly in the security forces, are going to be working, training, fighting, and otherwise coming into contact with more foreigners – but not necessarily Americans.

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