THE chorus of Opposition to deeper involvement in Afghanistan is growing by the week. There is a far greater recognition now of the intractability of the task that America and NATO have taken on than when President Bush - with wide support - sent troops there in the aftermath of 9/ll to find Osama bin Laden and to rid the country of the Taliban. Neither objective has been achieved, nor has that of putting down the foundations of a stable, unified, democratic state. President - elect Obama has consistently swum against the tide of public opinion that Afghanistan is an impossible cause and he is unlikely to change his mind now that he is close to holding the levers of power. Indeed he is talking of an increased US military presence and at the same time is asking European countries for a greater presence. He has, however, refined the argument for intensifying the military effort by reviving President Bush's priority of “smoking out” bin Laden. This shift also serves the purpose of reminding the American people, whose support for involvement is waning why their forces went there in the first place. But European leaders and their electorates are unlikely to be responsive to calls for greater commitment unless Barack Obama can say whether capturing or killing bin Laden would represent the beginning of the end of military involvement in Afghanistan and its replacement with an expanded and sustained humanitarian and infrastructural programme.


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