Obama unveils new Afghanistan strategy

March 27, 2009 8:01:06 PM PDT
President Barack Obama announced Friday he is sending thousands more troops and hundreds of additional civilian advisors into Afghanistan. It is part of what he calls a new strategy for the region. The president wants a mix of troops and civilian experts to stop the Taliban from spreading.

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Obama says it has been seven years since the Taliban were removed from power in Afghanistan, and yet attacks have risen steadily and last year was the deadliest for American troops.

"And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can," Obama said.

Obama said in order to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan he wants 4,000 additional troops to join the 17,000 he requested last month. Their mission will be to train Afghan security forces so that by 2011 there will be 134,000 Afghan army troops and 82,000 Afghan police. He also wants hundreds of civilians to help rebuild the country.

"I think it's a very good plan and it's overdue," Waheed Mommand said. Mommand is president of the largest Afghan American organization in the country and has spent most of the last five years in Afghanistan.

"You know it doesn't matter how much we do we are still foreigners okay," Mommand said.

Momand says the U.S. needs to find a way to help empower the Afghan people rather than relying on Afghanistan's elected leaders, who do not have the backing of many of their countrymen.

"You have to bring the people together, it's not that we have to bring them, we have to help," Mommand said.

Momand says if the president can help community leaders generate a sense of national pride and purpose, the country could overcome the Taliban or al Qaeda.

But a former CIA agent who spent years in the region helping Afghanistan over throw the Soviet Union says the president's plan is doomed.

"If this administration persists in Afghanistan and Pakistan this will make Vietnam look like a day at the polo club," Robert Baer said.

Baer says the U.S. is playing for very high stakes with a losing hand.

"We risk a larger presence in Afghanistan on that border crossing the border into Pakistan in any form whether it's missiles or troops of destabilizing Pakistan and not being able to account for 100 nuclear weapons with missiles, these are the stakes," Baer said.

Baer spent 21 years as a CIA agent in the Middle East. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has called him one of the best on-the-ground field officers in the region.

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