President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year, but he may not announce it until after he consults with key allies and completes a trip to Asia later this month, administration and military officials have told McClatchy.
As it now stands, the administration’s plan calls for sending three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and a Marine brigade, for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
Another 7,000 troops would man and support a new division headquarters for the international force’s Regional Command (RC) South in Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace where the U.S. is due to take command in 2010. Some 4,000 additional U.S. trainers are likely to be sent as well, the officials said. [continued…]
Army chiefs are drawing up plans to withdraw British troops from outlying bases in Afghanistan.
In what would be a significant change of strategy against the growing Taliban insurgency, they are considering abandoning several bases including Musa Qala, the scene of bloody battles that claimed 15 British lives. Army forces would attempt to hold only the larger towns in Helmand province.
It is understood the new “retrenchment” strategy is backed by the head of the army, General Sir David Richards. [continued…]
In a week where one of the policemen being trained by British soldiers to protect his own country turned on his mentors and shot dead five in cold blood, an increasing number of people are asking what we are doing in Afghanistan and whether it is worth it.
Public opposition to the war has risen sharply: in a ComRes survey for the BBC published today, 64% said the war was “unwinnable” and 63% thought British troops should be withdrawn “as soon as possible”. In a YouGov poll last week for Channel 4, 35% of people thought all UK troops should be withdrawn immediately, up from 25% two weeks ago.
On radio phone-in and news programmes, discussion has been of little else. “There is a real chance we will lose this struggle in the bars and front rooms of Britain,” warned Lord Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Among those now calling for a “fundamental rethink” is Kim Howells, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee and a former Foreign Office minister.
Howells last week wrote an article questioning whether spending £2.6 billion a year keeping troops in Afghanistan was the best way to protect national security. He called for a phased withdrawal and more focus on domestic spying.
Nobody doubts the courage and skill of the armed forces, or seeks to betray the memory of the fallen by walking away. But is it right to keep sending more? Or is it time we changed strategy or even pulled out? [continued…]