Obama's new Afghanistan plan may be much like old one
President Obama is expected to announce next week his decision on troop numbers and strategy for the war in Afghanistan. It won't be too different from the policy laid out in March, say experts.
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After nine meetings with his war council – and reports of vigorous disagreement within the administration – Mr. Obama seems likely to stick to the strategy he announced in March, perhaps incorporating elements from other proposals.
His top general in Afghanistan favors a "counterinsurgency" approach that would entail a massive increase in the number of US troops there. Others such as Vice President Biden reportedly prefer a "counter-terrorism" policy that would emphasize targeted strikes on terrorist hideouts.
"There will be something in there for everyone," says one official who is close to the deliberations. "Nobody got everything, but everybody got something."
Obama indicated Tuesday that he was not shying away from the fight in Afghanistan. "It is in our strategic interest, in our national security interest, to make sure that Al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively in those areas," Obama said at the White House. "We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks."
Obama's plan is likely to include:
•More forces. Obama is expected to announce an increase of between 30,000 and 40,000 additional forces for Afghanistan on top of the 68,000 already there. Those forces will conduct combat missions as well as training missions to increase the size of the Afghan national security forces. The additional forces, depending on their number, will be used to shore up sparsely-deployed forces around the country or concentrated on populated areas.
•More civilians. For years, military officials in Afghanistan have complained that there aren't enough civilians to focus on non-military aspects such as economic development and governance. Expect an increase in civilian efforts in the coming year.
Deploying civilian expertise was a problem in Iraq even during the surge of forces there, and so-called civilian surge for Afghanistan will probably also fall short. It's not clear where the several hundred civilians – agricultural experts, educators, specialists in the rule of law and engineers – will come from. The American government is still largely unable to identify those civilians whose skills would be relevant to such a mission and deploy them accordingly. However, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has made this issue a priority and is expected to be aggressive in deploying them under a new strategy.