Obama set to announce Afghan surge as end game nears for allies

President Obama will make one of the most important speeches of his Presidency in the early hours of tomorrow morning, announcing a massive Afghan troop rise.

Late tonight, President Barack Obama will announce the introduction of an extra 34,000 troops to the war in Afghanistan. This, alongside the 500 troops Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to the mission yesterday shows a clear commitment, in the short term, to US and UK involvement in the region.

The introduction of such a large number of troops suggests the war in Afghanistan is far from over but rhetoric used by Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband over the past few days indicates the UK and USA have opened the door to troop withdrawal.

Mr Brown’s conditions to providing extra troops were three-fold: ensuring UK troops had sufficient equipment; a commitment by Afghanistan to provide sufficient home-grown talent; and an assurance that each nation involved in the war was taking on their fair share.

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister was heavily critical of Pakistan’s efforts in the region, asking:

“Why, eight years after September 11th, nobody has been able to spot or detain or get close to Osama bin Laden, nobody’s been able to get close to Zawahiri, the number two in al-Qaida?”

With President Obama also expected to call on more from Pakistan, it seems that a greater emphasis has been put on regional cooperation and the ability of Pakistan and Afghanistan to determine their own future.

With such emphasis being put on the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments to show legitimacy and provide effective support to the US and UK mission, it seems that both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown are looking to create a long term future for Afghanistan which does not include NATO troops.

In the short term, the UK and US have provided the Karzai and Zardari governments with the carrot of an increase in troops numbers. Alongside this, however, is the long term stick, the understanding that if Afghanistan and Pakistan do not meet their military obligations the removal of NATO troops is something both the US and UK are prepared to consider.

With public support for the war falling at an ever increasing rate and military commanders in Afghanistan concerned as to the effect of public opinion on troop morale, the tough stance taken on Pakistan and Afghanistan by the UK and US may be popular with the general public. However if these nations fail to live up to their obligations, both Britain and the United States will have to make tough choices if the ‘end game’ President Obama has been looking for hasn’t been reached.

Though this troop deployment is a sign of a determination to finish the mission, it is also the signal that the UK and USA are looking towards the finishing line.

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