US outlines new Afghan strategy to Nato allies

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The Independent Online

The United States met Nato allies today to outline its strategy review for Afghanistan after President Barack Obama said it would contain an exit strategy and greater emphasis on economic development.

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke met Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer before briefing the 26 alliance ambassadors.

"It is to give the broad lines of the US strategy review as it now stands," Nato spokesman James Appathurai said.

"I don't know that they've arrived at any final conclusions on which President Obama has signed off on, but their thinking is now very close to the conclusion of the process."

Appathurai said he was not aware of a plan, reported in Britain's Guardian newspaper, for Washington and its allies to create an Afghan chief executive or prime minister to bypass President Hamid Karzai, widely seen as ineffective by the West.

Obama has admitted the United States and its allies are not winning in Afghanistan, where insurgent violence at its worst level since the US-led intervention there began in late 2001.

He has ordered deployment of 17,000 more troops on top of nearly 70,000 foreign troops already there.

Holbrooke told the BBC in an interview that the priority would be dealing with the situation in tribal regions along the border with Pakistan, which have been a haven for militants.

"That is the main message we want to get across. You cannot separate Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

He criticised the previous Bush administration for negecting Afghanistan and vowed "more troops, more resources, more high-level attention".

"I can't promise you a timetable or guaranteed success in an area this difficult," he said. "But I can guarantee you that this administration is going to do everything it can to succeed in one of the most difficult situations in the world."