Monday, March 2, 2009

Growing number of Afghans oppose surge

There is no shortage of Afghan opinion opposing the troop surge already underway in Afghanistan. As described below, it seems that the majority of people in Pashtun areas (i.e. the targets of our hearts and minds campaign) oppose the surge. I am yet to see any commentary noting this peculiar state of affairs and what that might mean about our supposed commitment to democracy.

Anand Gopal has more on the "growing number of Afghans" who oppose the surge:

Many in Afghanistan oppose Obama's troop buildup plans
Anand Gopal - The Christian Science Monitor

KABUL, Mar 2 - Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington's planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here.

"Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don't send more troops – it will just bring more violence."

Ms. Barakzai is among the growing number of Afghans – especially in the Pashtun south – who oppose a troop increase here, posing what could be the biggest challenge to the Obama administration's stabilization strategy.

"At least half the country is deeply suspicious of the new troops," says Kabul-based political analyst Waheed Muzjda. "The US will have to wage an intense hearts-and-minds campaign to turn this situation around."

The lack of public support could provide fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban and hinder US operations, Mr. Muzjda says...

[A] recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 64 percent [of Americans back the surge].

Much of the Afghan opposition comes from provinces dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group, which include areas that have seen the most fighting and where the new troops will be deployed. A group of 50 mostly Pashtun members of parliament recently formed a working group aimed at blocking the arrival of new troops and pushing for a bilateral military agreement between Kabul and Washington, which currently does not exist...

"I can't find a single man in the entire province who is in favor of more troops," says Awal Khan, a tribal leader from Logar province, just south of Kabul. "They don't respect our tradition, culture, or religion."

"The majority of my people disagree with this increase," says Hanif Shah Hosseini, an MP from Khost province who is not part of the working group. "More troops won't bring more security, just an increase in the fighting." ...

The injection of forces still enjoys support outside the Pashtun belt...

Officials in Washington and Pashtun villagers agree on one thing: They expect the violence to increase this summer as the new forces attempt to root out insurgent strongholds.

"I know once the snows melt, things will start to get much worse," Logar resident Nasar Ahmad says. "The fighting will be intense, and a lot of us villagers are talking about fleeing to Kabul."

"We are worried our families will be caught in the middle," he adds. (link)

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