"Obama's war" has no end in sight
www.chinaview.cn 2009-09-04 04:51:54   Print

    by Xinhua Writer Yang Qingchuan

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- When it comes to Afghanistan, no great power has ever succeeded in controlling that country.

    These days, as U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing hard choices on a very likely further increase of troop levels in Afghanistan, the "graveyard of empires," he is very aware of that part of history.

    After Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, submitted a bleak assessment of the nearly 8-year war, now it's for the president to make the decision.

    But the choices are hard to make. It's obvious that more troops and other resources are needed to help Obama's new strategy to work, but he is also confronting a growing anti-war public sentiment here at home, in the fear that the country will eventually be trapped into Afghanistan like all those military powers in history.

    No matter how soon the president will announce a further troop increase and a change of tactics, the conflict, which has already become "Obama's war", has no end in sight and the prospect is far from clear, analysts said.



    Although McChrystal didn't make any formal request for additional troops in his report, but the White House clearly opened door to such possibility.

    Commenting on the report, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday that a formal request for more troops or other war resources will be coming in next few weeks.

    He used the word "under-resourced" repeatedly to describe U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

    "For many years, our effort in Afghanistan has been under-resourced politically, military and economically," he said.

    The New York Times and other U.S. newspapers said that could be interpreted as an euphemism for "we need to put more troops and other resources there".

    In a public statement on his report, McChrystal said "the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable".

    He called for a "revised strategy", greater "resolve" and a "unity of effort" to salvage the war.

    The report's recommendations include a shift in military strategy to protecting local population from simply fighting the insurgents, speeding-up training of the Afghan military and double its size.

    Although he stopped short of requesting more troops but analysts said protecting the Afghan population and training more Afghan troops will surely require more U.S. troops and military trainers.

    When Obama announced his new strategy for the war in March, he said the goal is to "disrupt, dismantle, defeat al Qaida" and the Taliban forces which provide safe havens for terrorists.

    Obama has already planned to increase troops in Afghanistan to 68,000 this year.

    But military analyst Frederick Kagan said that number is not enough to achieve his objective.

    The U.S. Army doctrine says that to effectively protect local population in an insurgency, it requires one soldier for every 50 civilians. In Afghanistan, it means 320,000 troops are needed.

    However, with 68,000 U.S. troops, other NATO forces, Afghan troops, it only adds up to 270,000.

    Anthony Cordsman, a scholar who advised McChrystal in writing his report, said many experts believe the commander may at least need 3 more brigades, or some 10,000 additional troops.



    Opinion surveys illustrated the political risk for Obama to send more troops and other resources to Afghanistan.

    In a CNN poll released on Tuesday, a majority, or 57 percent of Americans now oppose the war, an all-time high. The number has been on the rise steadily in recent months.

    The worse thing is that the majority of anti-war folks come from Obama's own camp: Democrats and independents.

    "The public doesn't see Afghanistan as a lost cause. But there may be a lot of Americans who question whether a victory in Afghanistan is worth the cost, " said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

    Indeed, comparing the huge price the United States has paid for the war, the outcome is hardly satisfying.

    Even the new Obama administration formulated a new strategy, sending more troops and replacing U.S. military and civilian leaders in Afghanistan, the situation there is getting worse.

    Attacks incidents have quadrupled since 2007 while August became the most deadly month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001.

    The U.S.-supported government in Kabul controls less than one-third of the country, as the Brookings Institute ranked the country "second weakest nation" in the developing world.

    Cash-strapped American taxpayers are more worried about the open-end and growing U.S. spending for the war.

    The United States has so far spent 223 billion U.S. dollars in its military efforts in Afghanistan while annual nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan increased from less than one billion dollars in 2003 to 9.3 billion dollars last year.

    Most analysts agree that Obama's new strategy means more war costs.



    Obama said in a recent speech that the Afghan war, which has become the second-longest overseas war for United States in recent history, is "war of necessity" and won't end soon.

    But he has no answer for a question many Americans care most:

    "How long will it last and how much will it cost?"

    Many analysts admit there is no end in sight for this war.

    "We will need a large combat presence for many years to come, and will probably need a large financial commitment longer than that," said Stephen Biddle, a defense expert at the Council of the Foreign Relations.

    There are fears among American public and politicians that with an open-ended war, Afghanistan could be another Vietnam.

    The House Appropriations Committee said in a recent report that its members are "concerned about the prospects of an open-ended U.S. commitment to bring stability to a country that has a decades-long history of successfully rebuffing foreign military intervention and attempts to influence internal politics."

    Some columnists and politicians are openly calling for an exit plan.

    However, for Obama who inherited the war and made it his own, a retreat will risk a come-back of al Qaida and new terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

    But if he goes along with his strategy and keep increasing input of resources into this war, he will risk further alienating his political base.

    The best hope for Obama is his strategy, being refined by recommendations from McChrystal, can turn around the tide of war in 12 to 18 months.

    But even if he reaches that goal, it will take many more years to reduce sharply the threat from the Taliban and al Qaida, said analyst Cordsman.

    The prospect that whether his strategy will work or not, will depend on various factors and is hard to predict. 

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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