Thursday, February 24, 2011

"We do strongly believe that for Afghanistan to be able to survive... it will need (US) help beyond 2014..."

The nature of the conflict in Afghanistan is driving the timeline for how long outside help will be needed...The Taliban and forces working with them would like to be able to wait out the US and others providing stability to Afghanistan.

We will be there for the foreseeable future as our presence provides stability. The change we need to look at is how long we should house military troops in Europe as the threat there has diminshed. Changing our footprint there could save Billions and allow us to redirect support where it is needed.

The instability that would follow our pulling out of Afghanistan before the job is completed would make things there only worse. The trick will be making sure we strike the right balance between what is needed and what we can provide....I have personally seen the progress there and it is encouraging although it will always be a difficult place. The hope is that the effort will pay out in the future...Many people said that stability would never occur in Iraq, but they were proven wrong.

Afghanistan seeks US help post-2014
by Shaun Tandon Shaun Tandon – Thu Feb 24, 12:24 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Afghanistan appealed to the United States to provide security assistance beyond 2014, the date by which President Barack Obama wants to withdraw US combat troops.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak held talks at the Pentagon to look at future relations, despite recent tensions between the two governments over civilian deaths in the NATO-led campaign against the Taliban.

"We do strongly believe that for Afghanistan to be able to survive in that very volatile region, it will need your help beyond 2014," Wardak said at the start of a meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Wardak saluted the nearly 1,500 US troops who have died in the war, which was launched in 2001 to root out Al-Qaeda extremists responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"We should be extremely grateful for all the sacrifices which your sons and daughters have given," Wardak said.

Gates said the meeting would be the start of a twice-a-year forum aimed at laying "an enduring foundation for our partnership well beyond 2014."

The meetings should "demonstrate to others in the region and to our own people, in concrete terms, that together we are putting Afghanistan on a path towards stability and security," Gates said.

In a statement afterward, the Pentagon said the talks aimed at developing "an enduring strategic partnership" in which Afghans take charge of their own security and ensure the country "never again becomes a safe haven for extremists that threaten others."

Opinion polls show dwindling US public support for the war in Afghanistan, with many Americans questioning the continued human and financial toll nearly a decade after troops were first deployed.

Obama has poured more troops into Afghanistan but said he will start pulling them out in July this year. However, the administration has recently shifted focus and emphasized 2014 as the date by which US troops will leave.

Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US military expected to play a role in Afghanistan even beyond that year.

"We have said that there will likely be some type of support past 2014 involving US troops of some nature," Lapan told reporters.

Lawmakers from the rival Republican Party have criticized Obama for setting a time-frame for withdrawal, saying it would embolden guerrillas to wait out and also encourage Pakistan to hedge its bets by keeping ties with the Afghan Taliban.

Gates, a holdover from Republican president George W. Bush, acknowledged in an interview published Wednesday that he was initially skeptical of setting a deadline but came to believe it would influence Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"I couldn't think of another way to grab Karzai by the lapels and say: 'You have to take ownership of this. This is your war,'" Gates said in The Weekly Standard, a conservative political magazine.

Gates also said that the United States soon "could do some judo" on the Taliban, who would be surprised if they had anticipated a significant troop drawdown in July.

The United States has had tense relations with Karzai, with officials accusing him of corruption, personal instability and a dependence on US troops that has prevented Afghanistan from developing its own forces.

Tensions have also mounted over civilian casualties. Karzai on Sunday voiced anger at what he said were the deaths of more than 50 civilians in airstrikes in Kunar province. NATO said it would probe the allegations.

The deaths of Western troops and Afghan civilians have also fueled opposition to the military campaign in the United States, where polls show more than half of the public believe the war is going in the wrong direction.

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a staunch war critic from Obama's Democratic Party, said that the civilian deaths from the airstrikes would only fuel the insurgency.

"No innocent civilian deaths are acceptable, especially to the families of those killed. We must end this war and bring our troops home," Kucinich said

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