Thu, February 19, 2009
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Afghanistan now Obama's war

2009-02-19 06:44:38 GMT2009-02-19 14:44:38 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

INTRO: President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

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SCRIPT:

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The White House is still conducting a broad review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan, which is expected in April.

Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

STORY:

US President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 more American soldiers to head to Afghanistan.

The Afghan war is now in its seventh year and the bloodshed continues amid a growing insurgency.

Army General David McKiernan is the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan:

SOUNDBITE: Army General David McKiernan, saying (English):

"I am very delighted with the President's decision. I will use most of those forces in the Southern Part of Afghanistan where we do not have sufficient presence."

But McKiernan said that the troop increase will only go so far.

SOUNDBITE: Army General David McKiernan, saying (English):

"This is not going to be won by military forces alone and while this gives us a foundation, we certainly need additional contributions."

The extra 17,000 troops will boost the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by more than 40 percent.

More boots on the ground means there could be less reliance on air power. Analysts say that in turn could reduce some of the civilian casualties which have made it harder for foreign forces to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.

SOUNDBITE: Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, saying (English):

"By sending ground forces that can intermingle with the population, deliver the development assistance, secure population centers we could actually see a decline in the number of sorties that are flown and therefore a reduction in civilian casualties."

U.S. officials say Taliban safe havens over the border in Pakistan are a major asset for insurgents.

Earlier this week the Pakistan's government agreed to restore a strict form of Islamic law in Swat Valley, which borders Afghanistan in a bid to take the steam out of a Taliban uprising raging since late 2007.

Some analysts see this as a clear setback:

The White House is still conducting a broad review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan, which is expected in April.

Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.

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