War, Not Nation-Building, Will Be Obama's Top Afghan Goal

Objectives could strain, even break, US ties with President Karzai
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2009 9:08 AM CST
Afghan President Hamid Karzai gives a medal to US President George W. Bush.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – In a departure from Bush policies, the Obama administration intends to ramp up military operations in Afghanistan at the expense of reconstruction, the New York Times reports, shifting the burden of civil work to NATO allies. “If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday, “we will lose.”

The US will take a harder line with President Hamid Karzai, demanding he stem corruption, and shift resources to work with local governments. VP JOe Biden, a principal architect of the new policy, has called the situation “a real mess.” An Obama official defended the shift. “It’s not about dumping reconstruction,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to focus on the al-Qaeda problem.”