Officials have announced one combat brigadecomprised of about 3,500 troopswill be sent to Afghanistan in January, with two more brigades likely to arrive by late spring.
While no specific commitments are made beyond January, David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, has said the U.S. military plans to increase its troop levels by some 20,000.
There are about 60,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan from 41 countries. Of these, about 31,000 are from the United States, two-thirds of which fight under NATO command, the rest under direct U.S. command.
U.S. commanders have stressed that the troop increase has little in common with last years 36,000-troop increase in Iraq, dubbed the surge.
The increase in international forces that are needed here will be needed for a sustained basis for some period of time, until we get to a point where the Afghan security forces have the lead, Gen. David McKiernan, commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told National Public Radio December 5. So, its not a temporary surge sort of approach; its a more sustained security increase.
In a New York Times op-ed piece published last month, former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the differences between the conditions under which Washington carried out the surge in Iraq and what exists in Afghanistan today. In Iraq, Rumsfeld explained, the troop increase coincided with several other key factors that began to unfold in late 2006, none of which exist in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaedas base of support in the Sunni areas began to disintegrate in late summer of 2006, Rumsfeld said. As forces there previously allied with al-Qaeda increasingly found themselves victims of the groups murder, theft, and extortion, they decided it was in their interest to join the fight against it. The U.S. military has not forged similar alliances in the predominantly Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border where the Taliban is based.
In Iraq, the U.S. military had killed the top leadership of al-Qaeda and the former Baathist regime that had continued to fight U.S. forces. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was forced to draw down his Mahdi Army militia as the Iraqi army and police force, which grew to some 320,000 by December 2006, gained battle experience.
By comparison, explained Rumsfeld, Afghanistan is 80,000 square miles larger than Iraq, while the military and police force is less than one-fourth the size.
Also, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has little natural resources, while a massive narcotics industry continues to thrive there.
McKiernan cites Afghanistans 30 years of war and long-term political chaos as well as its continued economic and social underdevelopmenta condition in which U.S. imperialism has played no small roleas environmental reasons why their war in Afghanistan will require an extended commitment.
Their war in fact extends well beyond the Afghan borders into Pakistan, where Islamist forces, including the Taliban, have historically been funded and nurtured by the government, which has used them as a proxy for extending its political influence in the region.
Islamabads policy of support for Islamist fighters had previously also served the interests of U.S. imperialismwhich backed Mujahideen forces against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980suntil the U.S. rulers began to consider the establishment of the Taliban government resulting from that course as a problem.
Following Washingtons invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Pakistani government turned against elements of the Taliban and other Islamist groups on its own soil. The Pakistani military launched a war against these groups in parts of the countrys northwest, predominantly Pashtun mountainous region.
Civilians have been caught in crossfire and displaced by the hundreds of thousands, while forces connected to al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain entrenched in Pakistan along the Afghan border.
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