The United States ambassador to Afghanistan says that America should not increase its troop strength in the war-torn nation, warning that the scandal-plagued administration of President Hamid Karzai is not a suitable “long-term strategic partner.”
Karl Eikenberry, a retired Army general who commanded U.S. forces in the region from 2005-07, issued his concerns during a high-level White House strategy meeting and via two classified diplomatic cables.
The administration of President Barack Obama has been contemplating a “strategy shift” in Afghanistan ever since a military assessment of U.S. operations there (prepared by General Stanley McChrystal) was leaked to journalist Bob Woodward. McChrystal’s memo requested that 30,000-40,000 additional U.S. troops be sent to Afghanistan – which would dramatically increase the current American troop commitment there from its current level of 70,000.
Options include complying with McChrystal’s request or sending a smaller force of 15,000 troops with a primary role of training Afghan soldiers to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban. Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden wants American forces to shift their efforts from fighting the Taliban with additional troops to targeting al Queda with isolated special forces actions and Predator drone attacks.
This has been America’s bloodiest year-ever in Afghanistan, with 267 U.S. military fatalities. That’s up from 155 fatalities a year ago and 117 fatalities in 2007. By comparison, there have been 130 American fatalities this year in Iraq, down considerably from a peak of 904 two years ago.
In all, 5,248 American nationals have lost their lives in both conflicts.
Thusfar, the Obama administration has issued imprecise statements regarding the war, which America has been fighting since 2001.
“The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan Government that our commitment is not open-ended,” a White House official told reporters Wednesday. “After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time to ensure a successful transition to our Afghan partner.”