Locals react to Obama's Afghan talks

July 20, 2008 8:12:42 PM PDT
Senator Obama says the war in Afghanistan deserves greater attention from America than the war in Iraq, but is his proposal to send more troops into the country a viable solution?

Local Afghan Americans we spoke say they welcome more of a commitment to improve the situation in their country. They wonder if the thousands of additional troops being proposed will just go to fight a war or help rebuild their country, which is reeling from political and economic instability.

"I feel that his approach and his attitude gives me hope," says author Tamim Ansary.

Tamim Ansary is the author of "West of Kabul, East of New York." As an Afghan American, he views Senator Barack Obama's vow to send more troops with hope and some skepticism.

"Merely putting troops in, just to be fighting some unspecified nameless enemy. I don't know where that's going to to go," says Ansari.

On Sunday, Senator Obama pledged to drastically step up military involvement in Afghanistan. It's a country he believes should have been the primary focus of the war on terror.

"I believe that U.S. troop levels need to increase. And I, for at least a year now, have called for two additional brigades perhaps three," says Obama.

Translated, that means at least 7,000 more troops. If more military presence is the answer, Ansary says it should be deployed where it could fight terrorists but also help improve the country's infrastructure and people's lives.

"Clean water and clear out the land mines to make it possible to do some farming again. You can take a few simple steps like that and start those projects and bring troops in to protect that."

Senator Obama's trip to Afghanistan and Iraq has been viewed by John McCain supporters such as Senator Joe Lieberman as an much needed education for Obama.

"I wish he would have done it earlier because I think it would have informed some of the decisions he made about iraq where life and death were on the line and of course he makes the wrong decisions," says Lieberman.

International professor Sanjoy Banerjee says Obama is a smart man who will learn more from reading about Afghanistan on this trip. But as a photo opportunity, it can't hurt his prospects.

"It's really a photo opportunity. A lot of what you are doing in a presidential campaign is reaching out to people who don't pay much attention. So, you need efficient ways of communicating with them, so a photo opportunity is important for that reason," says Banerjee.

Senator John McCain chided Obama for giving a speech announcing his strategy for Afghanistan and Iraq before departing on a fact-finding mission saying Obama is confident enough that he won't find any facts that might change his opinion or alter his strategy.


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