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Russian pundits view Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan

Moscow, 2 December: US President Barack Obama has made a step which is very risky from the political and military point of view - he has declared plans to send up to 30,000 servicemen in Afghanistan by the next summer with clearly defined time limits - the troops must be withdrawn by the next presidential elections in 2012.

However, experts believe he had no other choice.

Judging by everything, Obama's Afghan strategy will determine whether his presidency will be success or failure, as it happened with his predecessor George W. Bush's failed campaign in Iraq.

The only difference is that it was not Obama who started military actions in Afghanistan.

The current leader's task is to finish the stalling campaign in Afghanistan as soon as possible by strengthening the military contingent.

The USA is expecting another 5,000 servicemen from NATO allies.

By increasing the military contingent in Afghanistan, Obama's administration is pursuing two goals, deputy director of the Institute of the USA and Canada Viktor Kremenyuk believes.

He said that, first, this decision was aimed at strengthening Hamed Karzai's government, which "survived" the recent elections, and, second, at looking after the situation in Pakistan, where the Taleban are fighting government troops.

"The Americans cannot sent troops to Pakistan but they must watch the situation there," Kremenyuk said.

He believes Obama is just following persistent recommendations by his generals and his own promises to settle the situation in Afghanistan and reduce the number of US troops in Iraq.

At the same time Kremenyuk does not see a clearly set military goal for US troops in Afghanistan. "What must happen for the troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan? A victory over the Taleban? The elimination of Osamah Bin-Ladin?" the expert said. "Obama is not saying that."

On the other hand, assistance to Karzai's government, which is supported only by 30 per cent of the Afghan population, and openly opposed by many, could do a disservice to the US Administration, because US troops will have to fight and die in a country where a majority of people are against this war.

Director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis Aleksandr Sharavin describes Obama's decision to increase military presence in Afghanistan as "correct but belated".

"The group of troops should have been increased earlier because until now the Americans had to act in an emergency regime," Sharavin told RIA Novosti.

The decision to increase the number of troops was delayed to get support from NATO, which takes a lot of time and efforts to make decisions, and time was lost.

The expert believes that one of the reasons of the USSR's failure in Afghanistan in 1979-1989 was that "a limited contingent was sent there and the authorities were afraid to increase the numbers for political reasons".

"With bigger numbers, the USSR could have controlled all towns and villages, but the military were spread thinly," Sharavin said.

To normalize life in Afghanistan, he believes, in addition to military operations, Karzai and the USA must cooperate with Afghan regional leaders and make sure that the Afghan government includes influential figures from the opposition.

Barack Obama has promised to allocate up to 30bn dollars next financial year to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan.

The question is: Will it not be better to give this huge sum of money to restore peaceful life and fight poverty among the Afghans, which becomes breeding ground for terrorism.

"This is impossible since the high level of corruption makes it impossible to provide help," Sharavin said. (passage omitted)

So, the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan will exceed 100,000, which is approximately the same number as the USSR had. "This is still not enough to ensure stability," senior researcher from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences and an expert on Afghanistan Aleksandr Umnov believes.

He said that the USA's plans to withdraw troops starting from 2011 look unreal because Karzai himself is saying his country will need the foreign military contingent for at least another five years and it is unlikely that the Americans will succeed in their task, all the more so as it is not clearly set, as was mentioned earlier.

Russia considers itself the USA's and NATO's ally in the fight against terrorism and drug threat in Afghanistan, but how far can this cooperation go?

According to Russian experts, Moscow is already doing everything it can possibly do to help anti-terrorist operations, first of all by providing logistic support, i.e. transit of NATO's military and non-military cargo for troops in Afghanistan. (passage omitted)

"We are being asked to think about economic participation in the restoration of Afghanistan but it is obvious that this is not possible without military success," Viktor Kremenyuk from the Institute of the USA and Canada believes.

In other words, everything depends on the outcome of Barack Obama's mitliary plans for Afghanistan.

Obviously, not only his election campaign promises will depend on this but also security in the whole region. (passage omitted)

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