Seven years into the war in Afghanistan, U.S. and allied troops are still battling Taliban insurgents, leading to talk of sending more troops to the country. New York Times correspondent John Burns, who just returned from the Afghanistan, provides an update.
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It's been seven years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 following the 9/11 attacks.
But the relatively easy ouster of the Taliban government has turned into a long and deadly struggle that's now taking more U.S. and allied lives than the war in Iraq.
Now there's talk of both sending in more troops to Afghanistan and negotiating with elements of the Taliban.
New York Times foreign correspondent John Burns recently returned from several weeks reporting in that country. And he joins me now.
John, welcome back. What are U.S. commanders saying to you about their troop needs in Afghanistan?
JOHN BURNS, New York Times:
Well, the needs are urgent and pressing. Unlike the situation in Iraq, where, for at least three or four years, American commanders were very reluctant to say publicly what they were saying privately, which was that they needed more troops in Afghanistan.
General McKiernan, the commander there, and General Petraeus, who is to take over on Friday overall commander for the two wars, are saying very clearly they need more troops.
They have 65,000 NATO troops of whom about 33,000 American troops. If there's going to be a serious increment in those troops, they're unfortunately going to have to be American troops.
The European allies, the principal European NATO allies are simply very reluctant to deploy more troops and especially to deploy more troops into the areas of most hazard.
Did they have a specific number of U.S. troops going in country in mind and a specific mission for them?
Well, General McKiernan said when he was back in Washington to see the president and discuss war strategy earlier in the month that he would like to see at least three more American combat brigades.
He's been told he can have one — that's something like 3,500 to 4,500 men by early next year — but that any increment beyond that will have to come later in the year and will depend on a troop drawdown in Iraq. The two wars are now very clearly linked in that respect.