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New U.S. war strategy requires support

U.S. still trying to convince allies of al-Qaida factor

WASHINGTON – The success of President Obama’s new war strategy depends heavily on factors beyond his control: Afghan competence, Pakistani cooperation and a greater willingness by Europeans and other allies to adopt the American view that al-Qaida is at the core of the conflict.

Each of those has been missing or has fallen short despite years of U.S. pushing and prodding.

That is why, after more than seven years of inconclusive combat and hundreds of American deaths, Obama saw a need Friday to retool strategy and seek more help from NATO and other partners.

The extra troops he is ordering to Afghanistan can make a difference, as can additional U.S. civilian specialists.

But even those have limitations, as Obama made clear in explaining why he must overcome skepticism in Congress about spending billions more on State Department and foreign assistance programs.

“Make no mistake, our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future,” he said.

Obama said a vital ingredient for success will be reconciliation among some adversaries within the country. He said he has “no illusions that this will be easy,” and he acknowledged there is an “uncompromising core” of the Taliban that is beyond reconciliation.

The Afghan government itself is part of the problem. Rife with corruption, it has failed to instill confidence in its ability to provide basic services in much of the country.

Obama tied the prospects for success in Afghanistan to rooting out al-Qaida terrorists in neighboring Pakistan. But to the Pakistanis, a more worrying threat has been its neighbor and nuclear rival, India.

In his remarks, Obama appealed to NATO to accept “a shared responsibility to act.” The Europeans have been reluctant to accept the U.S. view that al-Qaida is a threat to the existence of democratic societies.

That is why Afghanistan has increasingly become an American war – and why Obama sees a need to change that.

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