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Obama's war now? Reaction to Afghan pledge

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 02 December 2009

President Obama was never going to please every side of the political spectrum, nor the media, with his announcement of 30,000 more US troops to fight in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai appear side by side in an Afghan newspaper. (Credit: Getty)

The morning after the night before, Democrats are complaining about the escalation of the war while Republicans are concerned by the president's promise to withdraw US forces in 18 months.

Mr Obama vowed he would "bring this war to a successful conclusion" by reversing Taliban gains in large parts of Afghanistan and increasing the pressure on the Afghans to learn to protect themselves.

In the American media, big doubts remain over leader Hamid Karzai who - in many US minds - "undermines" the very notion of democracy and therefore the point of continued fighting.

In the New York Times, Dexter Filkins says: "The most immediate challenge is President Karzai himself... who presides over what is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt governments in the world.

"Training Afghan soldiers and pressuring Afghan officials will succeed only if the American-led war has the support of ordinary Afghans themselves. And it's among them - in the streets - that the war will ultimately be lost or won."

The New York Daily News declares: "Afghanistan is President Obama's war now".

But there is widespread concern about the "projected" exit schedule. Many argue that naming a date (July 2011) plays into the hands of the enemy.

The paper's Mackubin T Owens questions whether the US still has the "will to win". He writes: "A focus on extricating ourselves from a conflict rather than on achieving success - also known as victory - signals to an adversary that if he ratchets up his resistance, we will exit more quickly."

There was more positive analysis in the Washington Post, which concluded that Obama's speech "reflects the president's determination to chart his own course."

Outside of the US, there is unease. In France, Le Monde headlines with: "The risky bet for Obama".

One of Germany's leading broadsheets, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, focuses on Obama's plea for around 5000 back-up troops from Nato countries. The newspaper says "Obama must wait" for a decision from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Asia Times online's headline reads: "Pakistan at odds with Obama's vision".

Reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad puts it thus: "Pakistan, while wanting to play a mediating role between the Taliban and the US, does not want any active role in fighting the Taliban before they are eventually offered an olive branch as they do not pose any challenge to Pakistan's security." reports the view from inside Afghanistan. It says many are disappointed that Obama did not announce a withdrawal of troops and that the extra soldiers will inevitably "increase killings of both Americans and Afghans".

The site also claims to have received an email from a Taliban spokesman, saying: "More troops just means a larger target for us to hit."

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