But what impact, exactly, will it have on the debate going on in the U.S.?
Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Said Jawad, told Voice of America that Afghanistan needs more U.S. troops, as President Obama weighs the recently posed request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal for up to 80,000 more to be sent there:
"We need space and room to train additional Afghan forces, and the current strength and composition of the Afghan and international forces are not adequate to confront the existing challenges," he said. "We do need additional troops, certainly. Afghans would like to see the enemy defeated, which is terrorism and extremism. They don't want to see the friends of Afghanistan being doubtful about their mission and resolution."
But with Americans essentially split on the troop question (according to CBS's data, 38 percent want more troops, 17 percent want the same, and 37 want the beginnings of withdrawal; USA Today, meanwhile, finds more support for a troop increase), there are questions as to the legitimacy of Afghanistan's democracy--and, right or wrong, that question seems to be wrapped up in whether or not to send more troops. Reports of widespread fraud in Afghanistan's election, mostly benefiting President Hamid Karzai, have left the future of the Afghan government uncertain: if some votes are discarded by the U.N.-backed Election Complaints Commission, it could force a runoff between Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah--which, the Associated Press writes, would be difficult for the government to organize and conduct before winter.
Before the election, Karzai's government was viewed in the U.S. as corrupt, at least at the local level--a "corruption problem" was how analysts described it--and not always willing to own up to that issue. The reported election fraud has only exacerbated those concerns.
The Karzai government probably isn't the main factor weighing on the minds of Obama's national security team. A return to Taliban rule, McChrystal's strategy and whether it's worth risking 40,000-80,000 American lives, whether counterterrorism is a more fitting mission, and whether regional diplomatic problems should precede a troop increase (or the other way around), are all big questions. The credibility of the Karzai government doesn't necessarily relate to all of them.
The ambassador has called for more troops, but, given the ambiguities surrounding Afghanistan's fledgling democracy, it probably doesn't carry a load of political ramifications one way or the other. The McChrystal request--which Jawad did not specifically endorse--probably is both untainted and unbolstered by the Afghan embassy's support.
But the fact that Afghans want more troops is something that, we can all assume, has been weighing on Obama and his team, with whatever weight it carries, this whole time.
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