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Obama to roll out Afghan policy Friday

After a flurry of classified briefings on the Hill Thursday led by his special representative Richard Holbrooke, President Obama will announce his policy on Afghanistan Friday, the White House said. For a policy that has been so publicly under review for the past 60 days, and been much anticipated, it was seemingly being quite closely ...

After a flurry of classified briefings on the Hill Thursday led by his special representative Richard Holbrooke, President Obama will announce his policy on Afghanistan Friday, the White House said. For a policy that has been so publicly under review for the past 60 days, and been much anticipated, it was seemingly being quite closely held on Thursday, Hill sources noted, with some key staffers still without the necessary clearances to hear the briefings. Obama is expected to speak Friday morning at 9:15 a.m.

The United States is "committing more American troops to Afghanistan -- we have to," said Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.), president of the Center for a New American Security, which has issued a series of recommendations for the policy. "But counterinsurgency is a three-legged stool" -- with security, economic development and good governance components, he added. "Our troops can't win by themselves. We have to build an Afghanistan government that can increasingly assume responsibility for itself."

Recent media reports indicated that the policy would call for a surge in civilian U.S. personnel and capacity in Afghanistan. "Officials said the proposed strategy includes a more narrowly focused concentration on security, governance and local development in Afghanistan, with continued emphasis on rule-of-law issues and combating the narcotics trade," the Washington Post reported last week. "U.S. and British troops in the southern part of the country will attempt to oust entrenched Taliban forces, with an influx of reinforcements enabling them to retain control -- and help protect enhanced civilian operations -- until greatly expanded and sufficiently trained Afghan army and police forces are able to take their place."

After a flurry of classified briefings on the Hill Thursday led by his special representative Richard Holbrooke, President Obama will announce his policy on Afghanistan Friday, the White House said. For a policy that has been so publicly under review for the past 60 days, and been much anticipated, it was seemingly being quite closely held on Thursday, Hill sources noted, with some key staffers still without the necessary clearances to hear the briefings. Obama is expected to speak Friday morning at 9:15 a.m.

The United States is "committing more American troops to Afghanistan — we have to," said Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.), president of the Center for a New American Security, which has issued a series of recommendations for the policy. "But counterinsurgency is a three-legged stool" — with security, economic development and good governance components, he added. "Our troops can’t win by themselves. We have to build an Afghanistan government that can increasingly assume responsibility for itself."

Recent media reports indicated that the policy would call for a surge in civilian U.S. personnel and capacity in Afghanistan. "Officials said the proposed strategy includes a more narrowly focused concentration on security, governance and local development in Afghanistan, with continued emphasis on rule-of-law issues and combating the narcotics trade," the Washington Post reported last week. "U.S. and British troops in the southern part of the country will attempt to oust entrenched Taliban forces, with an influx of reinforcements enabling them to retain control — and help protect enhanced civilian operations — until greatly expanded and sufficiently trained Afghan army and police forces are able to take their place."

The AP reported later Thursday that "the strategy includes 20 recommendations for countering a persistent insurgency that spans the two countries’ border, including sending 4,000 U.S. trainers to try to increase the size of the Afghan army," on top of the 17,000 new combat troops Obama has already ordered.

"In Afghanistan, we’re surging to basically a residual force-level for Iraq," a Washington South Asia hand said. "There are a lot of good reasons for that — not least being that it’s physically not possible to surge in Afghanistan the way we did in Iraq."

Laura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.

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