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Is sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan the answer?

68,000 U.S. troops are currently there

"Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting—this is fundamental to the defense of our people."

This is what President Obama said in August about the importance of America's mission in Afghanistan, and I agree.

The top American commander on the ground in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says the U.S. needs to send more troops to Afghanistan in order to be successful there—and we need to do it as soon as possible. We have seen the deadly consequences of failing to provide enough troops over the last eight years in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This approach has led to innocent civilians being killed and terrorists flooding back into areas as soon as the U.S. military leaves, and it will ultimately hand victory to the terrorists.

On the other hand, a counter-insurgency approach—with the additional troops now being requested—will bring victory to the U.S. and to the people of Afghanistan. With this strategy, our troops eliminate terrorists and then stay to protect the civilians and establish a safe community. Even more importantly, this approach will provide the tools needed to allow the people of Afghanistan to earn a good living. In the long run, a paycheck is one of the most effective weapons against the lure of terrorism.

It is critical that the President listen to commanders on the ground, not the ever-changing political winds in Washington. The President needs to provide General McChrystal with the troops he needs to bring American troops home in victory and to put Afghanistan on a road to peace.

Senator Kit Bond
Republican of Missouri

After eight years of war in Afghanistan, it would be unwise for the United States to send more troops right now. The U.S. needs a stronger commitment from Afghanistan's leaders to reduce their country's drug trade and fight corruption. And the Obama administration should ask other nations around the world to increase their efforts to help stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's recent election raises serious questions about whether the U.S. has legitimate partners among Afghanistan's leaders. Reports of widespread electoral fraud, including ballot-box stuffing, could undermine the already weak leadership. Furthermore, many Afghan officials have ties to drug traffickers who fund the Taliban insurgents that the U.S. and its allies are fighting.

Afghanistan is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, according to independent groups like Transparency International. Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been lost due to this corruption.

The U.S. has already tripled its troops in Afghanistan since early 2007. The current deteriorating situation makes clear that simply sending more troops is not a magic cure. The problems in Afghanistan represent a global security challenge, and American leadership is needed to make sure that leaders in Afghanistan and around the world are sharing in the effort to make that troubled country more stable.

The U.S. has spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan already, and more than 800 American troops have died there. Americans cannot afford to continue to carry such a heavy burden in Afghanistan.

Brian Katulis
Center For American Progress

(The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 142, November 23, 2009)