Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while very supportive of a change in US strategy which would involve increased strikes on militants in Pakistan, a strategy he says he has pushed for years, said today that he opposes a long-term presence of foreign troops within Afghanistan. President Karzai said that ultimately the Afghan government’s own forces should be responsible for the defense of the nation.
Karzai’s timeframe appears radically different from America’s. While he hopes for a relatively speedy NATO exit, US Brigadier-General Robert Cone spoke of a plan to grow the Afghan army by slightly more than half, which he anticipated would be finished in “about 2014”.
But the situation in Afghanistan isn’t just moving forward very slowly, its actually deteriorating. Two more US soldiers were killed today making 2008, with over three months to spare, already the deadliest year for US forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
But from the Afghan perspective even more pressing is the dramatic increase in international airstrikes around the country, which has led to an alarming increase in the number of Afghan civilians being killed by US and NATO forces. One of the largest such incidents since the war began came late last month, when a US airstrike in Herat Province killed 90 civilians, most of them children. The rising civilian toll and worsening security situation has led many Afghans to conclude that, nearly seven years after the American invasion, they are no better off now than they were under the Taliban.