Page last updated at 06:46 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Afghans concerned by US withdrawal date

By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Kabul

US soldier and Afghan policeman
President Obama warned the US would begin to withdraw its military by 2011

The Afghan government and security forces recognise that the country is now at a critical juncture.

The Taliban have continued to gain strength and spread throughout the country and although there is little enthusiasm for extra troops, officials recognise they are unable to deal with the situation on their own.

However, there is concern that putting a date on a withdrawal sends the wrong signal.

It will make it harder to convince Afghans that they can trust and invest in the government rather than the insurgents who threaten them.

US: More than 100,000 by July 2010
Other foreign (mainly Nato): Some 32,000 currently, with a British offer of 500 more
Afghan National Army: 94,000
Afghan National Police: 81,000

And it risks giving encouragement to the very people the new troops will be fighting - the Taliban.

What most Afghans want are not more troops, but more talking.

People believe that the way out of the current crisis is through direct negotiations with the insurgents - something the government supports and the West has talked about.

But so far nothing concrete has been done about it.

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