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Terrorism & Security

Counterterror debate turns to troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq

Democrats say an overemphasis on the war in Iraq has come at the expense of Afghanistan and has allowed Al Qaeda to regroup in that region.

By DAVID MONTERO / April 7, 2008

President George W. Bush greeted Croatian soldiers that served in the NATO mission in Afghanistan at Zagreb airport, Croatia before his departure. As hearings on Iraq open in Washington, DC on Tuesday, there are questions about the adequacy of ISAF troop levels in Afghanistan, in the wake of NATO members' commitment to increase deployment in the region.

Nikola Solic/AP

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As hearings on Iraq open in Washington Tuesday, US lawmakers are questioning the adequacy of troop levels in Afghanistan. Their comments come in the wake of NATO members' commitment to increase deployment in the region and a renewed skepticism at home about the effectiveness of the recent troop buildup in Iraq.

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"Democrats have called on President George W. Bush to refocus US counterterror efforts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying that overemphasis on Iraq has allowed Islamic extremists to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistan border," Agence France-Presse reports.

'The negligent policies of the last half-decade have permitted al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regenerate, and to pose a greater threat to the national security of the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001,' Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bush Sunday.

The Baltimore Sun's politics blog, The Swamp, quotes Sen. Joseph Biden (D) Delaware as warning that Afghanistan and Pakistan should not be overlooked:

While we look forward this week to hearing from Ambassador Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan must also be an urgent priority. Afghanistan is slipping toward failure and the instability in Pakistan continues. As a result, the border area between the two remains a freeway of fundamentalism, where those who actually attacked us on 9/11 have regrouped. Afghanistan's fate is directly tied to Pakistan's future and America's security. This Administration cannot continue to treat the region as an afterthought.

The letter comes just days after "President Bush promised NATO allies at a summit that ended in Bucharest, Romania, on Friday that the United States will increase forces in Afghanistan next year no matter what happens in Iraq," The Washington Post reports. The announcement could signal an Iraq-style buildup.

The pledge comes as violence and insurgent activity is spiking in parts of Afghanistan. The administration's promise of more troops could indicate the beginnings of a push, similar to the buildup of forces in Iraq over the past year, to step up counterinsurgency operations next year.

Associated Press more troops are needed

"General McNeill has said that he needs three more brigades, two for combat and one for training. That translates to roughly 7,500 to 10,000 additional troops."
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