U.S. ambassador warns against Afghan surge

Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:25 AM
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LONDON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan advised President Obama against a troop surge, questioning if Afghan leaders could be effective partners, officials said.

Karl Eikenberry, a retired army general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2005-2007, reportedly focused on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, recently re-elected for a five-year term in an election tainted by fraud allegations, The Times of London reported. The ambassador questioned Karzai's appropriateness as a strategic partner because of corruption during his first administration and the installation of warlords and drug smugglers in influential positions.

Obama, during a White House meeting on the direction of Afghan strategy Wednesday, sought Eikenberry's views via a video conference. Obama is weighing options regarding civilian and military aid to Afghanistan, including increasing the number of troops as recommended by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan.

Eikenberry's concerns drew a reaction from NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said the military alliance backs the need for more troops despite Eikenberry's reservations.

Speaking after a meeting in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Rasmussen said he thought Obama would make a decision about troop numbers soon.

"We are right now in an intense phase of consultation among allies and I expect a decision on troop numbers to be taken within a very few weeks so I think it is a bit premature to make any final judgment on troop numbers," Rasmussen said. "Basically I share Gen. McChrystal's view, his assessment, his recommendation of a broad counterinsurgency strategy."

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