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Levin: In Afghanistan, US should focus on training local forces

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Still, the troop weariness issue – which hasn’t come up in months as deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan have normalized – could have some sway.

Currently, about 100,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan. McChrystal has requested up to 60,000 troops for a counterinsurgency strategy.

Obama is holding a series of meetings with top advisers to decide the way forward in Afghanistan.

For his part, Levin believes that the focus should be on training the Afghan forces and that this is ultimately the way out of Afghanistan.

He heralded remarks made Wednesday by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who committed 500 additional troops to Afghanistan for a total of 9,500, but who wants the focus to be on training the Afghan army. This, Levin says, is the way for the United States to show “resolve” in Afghanistan.

“The right strategy is the one that finishes the job by giving the Afghans the tools to take over,” Levin quoted Mr. Brown as saying. “I believe that is the right answer,” said Levin, adding that more combat troops reinforces the Afghan perception that the US is an occupying force.

There are currently about 170,000 Afghan national-security forces, consisting of police army and other units. Most military commanders, other experts, and US lawmakers agree the Afghan military must be much larger, and most think it needs to at least double in the next few years.

Trainers will make the difference, Levin said.

“[My] focus is to try to help the Afghans succeed by a much greater effort of training larger numbers ... of Afghans [faster] for their army and by focusing on equipping that army. We ought to have a plan in place for a real surge – not just of Afghans into their army, but a surge of equipment to that army,” he said at the breakfast.

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