Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Some Afghans think US should take more prominent role

Shortly after news of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, some Afghani officials would rather our forces stay just a wee bit longer.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Four years into a mammoth reconstruction effort here that has been largely led, funded and secured by Americans, the United States is showing a growing willingness to cede those jobs to others.

The most dramatic example will come by this summer, when the U.S. military officially hands over control of the volatile southern region -- plagued by persistent attacks from Islamic militias -- to an international force led by the NATO alliance. The United States will cut its troop strength by 2,500, even though it is not clear how aggressively NATO troops will pursue insurgents, who have shown no sign of relenting.

At the same time, the U.S. government is increasingly allowing Western allies, or Afghans themselves, to take on the tasks of rebuilding a country that has suffered more than two decades of fighting and remains beset by poverty, drugs and insurgency.

The United States says that its shifting approach complements Afghanistan's evolution into a self-sustaining democracy and that Washington has no plans to pull out altogether.

"The Afghans have to have enough space to make their own decisions, even to stumble sometimes," said U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann. "But we shouldn't leave them without critical support before they're strong enough."

As the U.S. presence becomes less visible, however, Afghans are starting to question whether the U.S. support is sufficient. Some Afghan officials express concern that the Bush administration's priorities are simply shifting elsewhere and that the United States may abandon their country prematurely, much the way it did in the early 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

Well that's a really crap way for the WaPo to translate, "Please stay, we don't think NATO/other allies will do as good a job protecting us and hunting down terrorists." Still, don't forget that there's no international support for our GWOT.