Washington: Fresh carnage in Kabul and a rising death toll among US troops have thrust Afghanistan into the thick of the intensifying White House showdown between John McCain and Barack Obama.
Democratic presumptive nominee Obama is promising to redeploy large numbers of US combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan if he is elected president in November, in an effort to quell resurgent militant activity.
Republican John McCain however maintains Iraq is the central front of the “war on terror,” adding that a US withdrawal would embolden terrorists and US enemies and that the two wars cannot be seen in isolation.
With a surge in the death toll among US and allied troops battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, Afghanistan moved to centre stage in the campaign last week -- even before Monday’s suicide car bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul, which killed at least 41 people in the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Political leaders in the US have their own take on the situation
The security situation in Iraq meanwhile appears to be improving, following a US troop “surge” anti-insurgent strategy launched last year. Obama argues that the huge US troop presence in Iraq is draining resources from the anti-terror effort in Afghanistan.
The Kabul bombing “is one more indication of the severe deterioration that we’ve seen in the security situation in Afghanistan,” Obama said Monday. “As president of the United States I will do everything that we can to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda, who have reconstituted themselves, he added.”
Democrats have long argued that the Bush administration took its eye off the search for Al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, and the battle with the Taliban by invading Iraq in 2003.
Obama’s foreign policy advisor Susan Rice last week accused McCain of fully supporting Bush administration policy on Iraq, which she said had dangerously distracted attention from the anti-terror fight in Afghanistan.
Iran’s political situations affects Afghanistan
“What happens in Iraq matters in Afghanistan,” McCain said.“If we had failed in Iraq if we had pursued the policies vociferously advocated by Senator Obama, we would have risked a wider war. “We need to succeed in Iraq, and I am confident we can succeed in Afghanistan, but it’s not just a matter of more troops.”
The dispute over Afghanistan reflects differing political perceptions of the war on terror launched after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The issue has moved to the forefront due to the death toll among international troops in the two wars: it is rising in Afghanistan, but decreasing in Iraq.
June was the deadliest month for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, with 49 soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the separate US-led coalition killed.
Thirty-one soldiers including 29 Americans were killed in Iraq in June, despite the fact that there are more than twice as many troops there as in Afghanistan.