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"The insurgent Taliban said Wednesday that US President Barack Obama should learn from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and pull his troops out of the country to allow Afghans to decide their own fate," reports The News, a popular English-language daily in Pakistan.
"We have no problem with Obama," a spokesman for the extremist Islamist movement [said] after the inauguration of the new US president. However, "he must learn lessons from [former US president George W. Bush] and before that the Soviets," Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone.
Their remarks come as militants in neighboring Pakistan widened a bloody campaign in the country's North West Frontier Province, blowing up girls' schools and engaging in pitched battles with Pakistani military forces.
Now the hard part begins, and there may be no harder spot on the planet for President Barack Obama than Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The unreliable border between those two countries will help determine whether some of the tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan will come home in body bags; whether al Qaeda can launch another attack; and whether the Taliban can continue to destabilize both countries economically and politically.
The Boston Globe adds that a "record 151 American forces died in Afghanistan in 2008, compared with 111 the previous year. It was the deadliest year yet in a seven-year war that military officials say is likely to get even bloodier this year, as thousands more American troops pour into the country."
Responding to the challenge, the new Obama team has outlined a diplomatic as well as military approach to fighting the Taliban, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported yesterday.
Despite plans to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan to boost stability, the Obama administration seems to be heeding expert advice that no military solution is possible over the long term.
Hillary Clinton, Obama's pick for secretary of state, last week omitted mention of the idea of a military victory….
"We will use all the elements of our power -- diplomacy, development, and defense -- to work with those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who want to root out Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other violent extremists," Clinton said.
The challenges Obama faces were crystallized in violence in neighboring Pakistan.