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Bin Laden raid: A model for how US should fight Afghanistan war?

The US is now waging a troop-heavy counterinsurgency to win Afghan hearts and minds. But the bin Laden raid has boosted critics, who say the Afghanistan war should involve smaller forces and a greater reliance on targeted strikes.

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Critics speak out

On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers similarly said the death of bin Laden "requires us to examine our policy of nation building in Afghanistan."

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"We believe it is no longer the best way to defend America against terror attacks, and we urge you to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan that are not crucial to the immediate national security objective of combating Al Qaeda,” wrote the congressmen, led by Reps. Peter Walsh (D) of Vermont and Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah.

In a time of economic crisis, a strategy that relies more heavily on special-forces operations may offer more return on what is currently a tremendous investment, both in money and in political will, says retired Marine Col. T.X. Hammes, a senior research fellow with the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

“We said we got into this war to get Al Qaeda guys,” he says. But as their ranks in Afghanistan diminish and the costs of the war escalate, “it’s getting harder and harder to argue that,” and in turn, to justify continued US troop presence on the ground, he adds.

Stay the course

The Biden counterterrorism approach has its detractors, most notably Secretary Clinton, as well as military leaders including Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Afghan war and future director of the CIA. They have plenty of supporters on Capitol Hill, as well. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, calls the prospect of a stepped-up US troop pullout a “catastrophic blunder.”

Opponents to counterterrorism point out that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was enamored of special operations forces and a small footprint in Iraq – an approach that was largely discredited after violence began to ebb on the heels of a surge of US troops into the country.

For its part, the White House has said that bin Laden’s death will not change US policy. Though troops are scheduled to begin department Afghanistan in July, the numbers are widely expected to be small. “Our agenda, the president’s agenda has not changed at all in the last eight days,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

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