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Obama to unveil new strategy, send extra 4,000 troops

Latest update : 2009-03-27

US President Barack Obama will unveil a new strategy for Afghanistan on Friday, including sending 4,000 more troops there. He will also focus on expanding Afghan forces, wooing "moderate" insurgents and emphasising Pakistan's diplomatic role.

AFP - President Barack Obama on Friday plans to unveil a new US strategy for the war in Afghanistan designed to turn the tide against an emboldened insurgency, the White House said.
After a two month top-to-bottom review of the war effort, the White House said Obama would announce his strategy for a war that has dragged on for more than seven years since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime.
"The president is making calls and briefing members of Congress based on the conclusion of that review, that the president will announce tomorrow at the White House," spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news conference Thursday.
Apart from more US boots on the ground, the strategy is expected to rely on expanding Kabul's security forces, wooing "moderate" insurgents, bolstering civilian aid efforts and a diplomatic push focused on Pakistan's role.
As Obama spoke to lawmakers about his plan Thursday, defense officials said the president was planning to send additional troops to train Afghan security forces later this year.
The move to deploy an extra brigade of 4,000 troops follows Obama's decision last month to send in 17,000 reinforcements to take on Taliban and allied insurgents challenging the fragile Afghan government.
As a result, the US force is expected to reach 61,000-65,000 by mid-September with the arrival of various support units, doubling America's military presence in Afghanistan compared to early December, a defense official said.
Unlike his predecessor, Obama has scaled back rhetoric about democracy as his administration searches for ways to contain the mounting violence and one day turn over security to Afghan authorities.
Obama over the weekend said it was crucial to set out an approach that would allow the United States to eventually leave the country.
"There's got to be an exit strategy," Obama told CBS television's "60 Minutes" program. "There's got to be a sense that this is not a perpetual drift."
Outlines of the blueprint have emerged in recent weeks, including plans to bolster development projects, secure main roads and persuade Islamabad to tackle insurgent havens across the border in Pakistan.
A "civilian surge" planned by the administration would involve hundreds of experts to help with agricultural, administrative and other development projects in support of local governments, officials said.
The strategy would likely bring no major surprises when it is announced on Friday, officials said.
"Separate elements of this have already been discussed in other public forums," a US defense official told AFP.
The additional brigade of 4,000 was expected to arrive at the end of the summer to help with the recruitment and training of a larger Afghan army and police force.
Much of the plan appears to build on lessons learned by the US military in its bloody fight against insurgents in Iraq, including an emphasis on winning the trust of local leaders and training security forces.
The day before the president was to present his strategy, his pick to be ambassador to Kabul warned that the new approach could fail unless Pakistan cracks down on Islamist extremists.
"We can succeed in Afghanistan, it's true, but if we don't address the problem, the linked problems in Pakistan, then we'll have no lasting success," Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, meanwhile, said Thursday the United States needed to improve its intelligence gathering in Afghanistan.
"We know a heck of a lot more on Iraq than on Afghanistan," Blair told reporters, adding the United States particularly needed "a granular understanding of local power structures."

Date created : 2009-03-26