US confirms longer stay in Afghanistan

President of the CFR Leslie Gelb says the new date will be the focus of discussions between world leaders at the NATO summit in Lisbon later this month.

He described the new transition date as a devastating truth for Americans.

US President Barack Obama had pledged a major drawdown from Afghanistan by July 2011. On Thursday, a panel of US experts called on President Obama to consider scaling back the military mission.

The panel said the administration needs to make hard decisions after its anticipated war review in December.

The developments come days after a recent report by McClatchy newspapers revealed that Obama’s administration was moving away from a previous pledge to start troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by July 2011.

The Pentagon has also publicly announced its intention for an extended stay in Iraq as well.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the Pentagon was ready to keep American forces in Iraq beyond 2011, should the Baghdad government request it.

“We’re ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us,” Gates said on Tuesday.

Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has recently admitted that progress in the Afghan war has been as slow as watching grass grow or paint dry.

“It’s not a conventional battle. It is slow progress. You take steps forward but you also take steps backward,” Petraeus told NPR in an interview.

NATO has increased its deployment in Afghanistan to 150,000 troops. Despite the troop surge, the security situation there has been at its worst since the US-led invasion of the country nine years ago

Violence across Afghanistan has reached its worst level since the US-led invasion of the country nine-years ago. Taliban militants have been making inroads in different parts of Afghanistan.

At least 634 foreign troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far, making 2010 the deadliest year for US-led forces since 2001.

The increase in the casualties of US-led foreign forces has amplified opposition to the Afghan war in countries which have contributed troops to the mission.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently criticized the current strategy of foreign troops in the country, saying it targets innocent civilians.

The US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan have launched a massive military operation in the southern province of Kandahar, inflicting extensive damage particularly on civilian property.

The US military adventurism comes as the United Nations recently announced that Afghan civilian deaths had soared by over 30 percent in 2010 compared to the same period last year.


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