Obama to Send Military Advisers; Larger Force Part of Strategy to Fight Al Qaeda

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama on Friday will order 4,000 more military advisers to Afghan forces and will look to forge an international diplomatic coalition determined to dismantle al Qaeda in Pakistan and root out the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Arguing that he was left a situation with increasing violence, resurgent terrorism and no real strategy for victory, Mr. Obama, in a speech Friday morning, will make the case for the increase in U.S. trainers as a way to get more performance for less money. The advisers are in addition to 17,000 combat troops Mr. Obama plans to send.

It's a lot less expensive to fully fund an Afghan soldier on the battlefield than it is to send someone from North Carolina, from the 82nd Airborne Division, on the battlefield, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday evening on the condition of anonymity as he previewed the president's remarks.

The new strategy is the result of a 60-day review Mr. Obama ordered at the beginning of his administration, and the president will say it marks a turning point of nearly eight years of war because it will view Afghanistan and Pakistan as one challenge, both for diplomacy and U.S. aid.

The strategy will include tripling U.S. nonmilitary aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for the next five years, will require the deployment of hundreds of civilians to help with diplomacy and aid, and will seek to persuade U.S. allies to back the new strategy, with money and manpower.

The Washington Times reported key elements of the plan last week, including increased financial aid and helicopters to help Pakistan ferry its troops to remote areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to fight the Taliban and its tribal allies.

Administration officials said a key goal is to convince people in Pakistan that the war is not only a U.S. fight, but also their own battle. They said that sense has been lost and that many in the United States consider the fight to be Bush's war.

Members of Congress were briefed Thursday, and key lawmakers said the plan is an important step.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press that the training group is needed because there aren't enough U.S. military advisers in the region. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told the wire service that it seemed like a viable strategy as long as the manpower is there. …