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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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More Afghan National Security Forces. Developing a stronger indigenous security force in Afghanistan has long been seen as the key to ultimately leaving the country safe. But efforts to do so have until now lacked the resources and momentum. Democrats are calling for this to dominate the new strategy. Obama will emphasize growing the Afghan National Security Forces to about 400,000 – roughly double of the current goal – over the next few years.

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Deals with some Taliban. Many experts and military commanders believe that cutting deals with some elements of the Taliban can be effective, and Obama's new strategy will embrace this.

The "uncompromising core" of the Taliban must be met with force, Obama said in March. But the Taliban is also composed of militants who plant roadside bombs not out of ideology so much as economic necessity. Those kind of militants could be persuaded to lay down their arms and help the US and its allies keep the Taliban out of their communities.

It worked in Iraq. In 2006, insurgents in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province who felt Al Qaida had crossed the line and was terrorizing communities, began to turn against the terrorist group. This "awakening" was helped by some financial encouragement from the US. Many say that although Afghanistan is a very different society, the approach could work there, too.

Bigger NATO contribution. The Bush administration spent years pressing NATO to do more in Afghanistan – unsuccessfully. But recently, NATO members and other countries seem to be becoming more amenable to the idea. Non-US contributions has grown since January, from 31,500 in January to around 42,000 today. Britain recently announced it would send another 500 troops and is expected to contribute even more. The US is also targeting Italy, Germany, France, and others to send more troops.

See also:

Afghanistan troop surge could be a slow rollout

Afghanistan war decision: how Robert Gates thinks


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