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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paul Rogers, "The "AfPak" war: Washington’s three options," openDemocracy, February 23, 2009.

The United States decision in the closing months of 2008 to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan was largely in response to an escalation in Taliban activity that has now lasted through the current winter. Those troops, from the 10th Mountain Division that has repeatedly been deployed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in October 2001, are now installed in Logar and Wardak provinces south of Kabul (see "Afghanistan's critical moment", 6 February 2009). President Barack Obama announced on 17 February 2009 that he is deploying 17,000 more US soldiers, many of whom will attempt to limit the free exchange of paramilitaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the past two weeks there has been a much greater media focus in the United States on the deterioration in security in Afghanistan, much of it prompted by the decision to send the extra troops. This has even made headlines across the domestic news-channels, occasionally even displacing the dominant concern with the economy; but this rare focus on an international story is accompanied by commentary that tends to underplay impact of more troops on the wider strategic environment. Indeed, one result of the Republican efforts to define a narrative of victory in Iraq around the effects of the 2007-08 "surge" has been an assumption that what "worked" there will have a similar effect in Afghanistan.

  ...a fundamental and long overdue reassessment of Afghanistan policy may yet take place in the coming months.

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