US looks to bolster combat troops in Afghanistan
The United States yesterday looked for ways to bolster combat troops in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama warned the war would not be "quick" and violence threatened this week's election.
With Afghans heading into crucial presidential elections Thursday, US defence officials said the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, was weighing cutting back desk jobs and other support staff in favor of combat missions.
"The idea is use troops more effectively," a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Monday.
Reducing non-combat positions would mean "doing more with what you've got versus asking for more" troops, the official said.
McChrystal has been taking a hard look at the war against Taliban insurgents amid widespread speculation he may soon ask Obama for additional US forces -- a politically charged issue at home and abroad.
Cutting the number of support staff could mean the US general would make a more modest troop request, possibly easing pressure on Obama who faces rising anxiety over the war within his own party.
As candidates held rallies at the close of campaigning in Afghanistan, Obama on Monday defended the war as a necessary mission but warned of a difficult road ahead.
"The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight," Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars service organization in the southwestern state of Arizona.
"We won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick. This will not be easy," Obama said.
The US president said the war was "fundamental" to defending Americans by depriving al-Qaeda of a safe-haven to plot follow-on attacks to the September 11 strikes in 2001.