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Stephen J. Hadley on how Obama's surge in Afghanistan can stabilize the region

U.S. soldiers patrol in the center of Kabul last week.
U.S. soldiers patrol in the center of Kabul last week. (Musadeq Sadeq/associated Press)

-- The number of non-U.S. coalition troops (including NATO) rose from about 20,000 to about 31,000 in the same period.

-- The number of trained Afghan army and police forces increased from around 65,000 to more than 140,000 in that period, en route to a target of more than 200,000.

After Gen. David McKiernan assumed command in June 2008, he determined that the additional forces under the "quiet surge" were not enough and requested four additional combat brigades and support forces (about 30,000 troops). The Bush administration took steps to meet this requirement as well.

-- In September, President Bush announced that a Marine battalion (about 1,100 troops) would be diverted from Iraq to Afghanistan, followed by an Army combat brigade (about 4,000 troops).

-- In December 2008, the Pentagon announced an additional Army aviation brigade for Afghanistan (roughly 3,000 troops).

-- That same month Gates announced his intention to deploy by spring two Army combat brigades (about 8,000 troops) as part of an effort to send 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

The Obama administration's just-completed review seeks to deal with a situation that has further deteriorated this year. Equally important as more troops is the strategy of using these troops to provide security for the Afghan people, operating space for the accompanying "civilian surge" and an opportunity for Afghans to build their own governmental and security institutions.

It will take time and great effort, but we can succeed by convincing friends, foes and our own forces that we are committed to success and will not fail; motivating and enabling the Afghan government and people to accept greater responsibility for their future; and helping Pakistan in its effort to put down its own Taliban threat and control its territory.

The last goal is paramount. A destabilized Pakistan would threaten regional stability and ensure that Afghanistan could not be stabilized. Success will depend on proving to Pakistan that it has an enduring partner in the United States.

Our strategy can succeed in Afghanistan if we are committed to succeeding, not just getting out.

The writer was national security adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009 and deputy national security adviser from 2001 to 2004.


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