'Reality that US forces are in for long haul in Afghanistan starting to set in'

Washington, Nov 18 (ANI): US President Barack Obama is likely to make his clearest acknowledgement so far at a summit in Lisbon this weekend, that lasting gains in Afghanistan may take years to accomplish.

In the White House, the confidence that US involvement could be carefully calibrated has given way to a more sober assessment that lasting gains may actually take years, and Obama and his advisers now appear unlikely to consider deep reductions in US forces next year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

US and Afghan officials previously have made it clear that Afghanistan will need the US' help against the insurgency for many years, but the transition plan being presented in Lisbon will be the first time Obama will publicly back such a time frame, it added.

"Reality is starting to set in," said retired US Army Lt. General David Barno, who commanded the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. "There's a better appreciation by the administration that you can't have instantaneous results."

The review of policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which began last month, is no longer expected to result in recommendations for changes to the strategy, a senior administration official said. Obama and his advisers now appear unlikely to consider deep reductions in US forces next year, the paper said.

Training of Afghan security forces has accelerated, but many units, especially the police, remain poorly trained, corrupt and unable to battle the insurgency without Western assistance, particularly in areas where the Taliban remains strongest, it added.

There is a "recognition of the fact that the Afghans cannot be ready to assume full responsibility for their security before 2014 and the United States and its allies cannot afford to allow the country to relapse into anarchy, which is quite likely what would happen if the they left too early," said James Dobbins, a former US envoy to Afghanistan.

After more than nine years of war, Obama cannot afford politically to allow Afghanistan to slide back into chaos. Even though the US military now seems certain to remain on the ground for years to come, the circumstances offer the president some political cover, the paper said.

Republicans, who are taking control of the House of Representatives in January and gaining seats in the Senate, generally support continuing the mission in Afghanistan, it added.

The paper said that the US President can also argue that he put the campaign in the hands of his most capable commander, General David H. Petraeus, who is credited with devising and executing a strategy that helped halt the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq.

Petraeus, whom Obama appointed as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan this summer, is said to be wary of drawing down U.S. forces too quickly next year, fearing that it could jeopardize any gains, it added.

Doug Lute, a senior White House adviser on Afghanistan also said, "The transition "won't happen overnight. It will be a steady, progressive process." (ANI)

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