Wednesday, January 14, 2009
WASHINGTON — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday deflected calls for greater limits on her husband’s fund-raising, struck a sharper tone toward Israel on violence in the Middle East and emerged from a daylong confirmation hearing headed for swift approval as secretary of state.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mrs. Clinton showed a mastery of the issues that won praise from her fellow lawmakers, and outlined a muscular view of American foreign policy that she said would put diplomacy front and center in the Obama administration.
On most important issues, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Mrs. Clinton broke little ground, saying that she did not want to undermine President Bush before President-elect Barack Obama took office. But she left little doubt that she intended to be in the thick of all of these issues.
“I assure you that, if I am confirmed, the State Department will be firing on all cylinders to provide forward-looking, sustained diplomacy in every part of the world,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton was one of five officials picked by Mr. Obama who faced hearings on Tuesday as Senate leaders laid the groundwork for confirmation votes next Tuesday.
The only testy notes in a day of cordial exchanges came when Republican senators warned that Mrs. Clinton could face conflicts of interest because of foreign donations to the charitable foundation run by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton stood her ground, saying that restrictions hammered out between Mr. Clinton and the Obama transition team were “probably as close as we can get” without hampering the foundation’s work.
In addressing the spiraling violence in Gaza, Mrs. Clinton spoke more fully than either she or Mr. Obama had done previously, and she seemed to part from the tone set by the Bush administration in calling attention to what she described as the “tragic humanitarian costs” borne by Palestinians as well as Israelis.
Mrs. Clinton said she was “deeply sympathetic” to Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Hamas militants from Gaza, a stance that has been central to the Bush administration’s message.
But Mrs. Clinton also said that the price being paid by Palestinian civilians as well as Israelis “must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement” that included a Palestinian state. Her emphasis on the civilian costs of the violence in Gaza suggested that the incoming administration might be more inclined than President Bush has been to urge restraint on the Israelis.
The top Republican on the panel, Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, was among those who expressed disappointment over Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to accept further restrictions on her husband’s fund-raising. But he told Mrs. Clinton that he still intended to vote in favor of her confirmation. “Your qualifications are remarkable,” he said.
Other senators tried with limited success to plumb how the next administration would conduct foreign policy differently from the current one.
On issues as varied as Iraq reconstruction, arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, Mrs. Clinton described a fortified State Department that would be an equal partner to the Pentagon. She noted that Robert M. Gates, who is staying on as defense secretary, has also urged that the State Department be given additional resources and that diplomats play a more active role.
Although Mrs. Clinton ranged widely in five hours of testimony, speaking in detail on topics that included the coming negotiations in Copenhagen on climate change, she acknowledged that the eruption of violence in Gaza was likely to dominate her first days as secretary of state. She reiterated her opposition to direct negotiations with Hamas unless it renounces violence and recognizes Israel.
Still, Mrs. Clinton said that “real security for Israel, normal and positive relations with its neighbors,” as well as genuine security for Palestinians, must continue to be America’s ideal.
“As intractable as the Middle East’s problems may seem — and many presidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to help work out a solution — we cannot give up on peace,” she said.
Likewise, Mrs. Clinton predicted a grinding process of diplomacy with North Korea, saying the United States would continue to press the government in Pyongyang on its nuclear program through multiparty talks with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
Mr. Clinton did not attend the hearing, but he cast a shadow over it. His foundation, which includes several initiatives to improve health and living standards around the world, has accepted large contributions from foreign governments. Donations have included multimillion-dollar gifts from Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brunei, the Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan.
“This was bound to be a dilemma from the moment the president-elect asked you to be secretary of state,” Mr. Lugar said.
In the day’s only tough questioning, Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, challenged Mrs. Clinton to pledge that her husband’s foundation would report its donations on a quarterly basis. The memorandum of understanding between Mr. Clinton and the Obama team stipulates annual disclosure.
“I really do think this poses a lot of real and perceived conflict issues,” Mr. Vitter said.
Mrs. Clinton deflected the questions, saying, “This is an agreement that has been worked out between all the parties.” At one point, the committee’s chairman, Senator John Kerry, intervened to dispute Mr. Vitter’s claim that the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a venture of the foundation, does not disclose its donors.
Under questioning, Mrs. Clinton defended her husband’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, but pledged to keep a close eye on the issue. “I hasten to add,” she said, “my career in public service is hardly free of controversy.”
The generally polite tone of the hearing was set at the start by Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, who is the new chairman of the panel, but who had hoped to be picked as secretary of state himself. He said that Mrs. Clinton’s “presence overseas will send a strong signal that America is back.”
Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, sat in the row behind her.
In addressing other issues, Mrs. Clinton noted that Mr. Obama favored more engagement with Iran but offered no details.
She was more specific about American policy in the Darfur region of Sudan, saying that Mr. Obama might impose no-flight zones or other sanctions to rein in the actions of pro-government militia forces.
Mrs. Clinton said little about the next administration’s approaches to Iraq and Afghanistan. But transition officials said that in addition to keeping Mr. Gates as defense secretary, Mr. Obama would be keeping another holdover from the Bush administration on his national security team — Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who will keep his job coordinating Iraq and Afghanistan policy out of the National Security Council.
In addition to her answers on foreign policy, Mrs. Clinton made it clear that the State Department would have a higher profile on economic issues, which, she noted, had implications for relations with Russia. She also laid out an ambitious agenda for working on women’s health.
“Of particular concern to me,” she said, “is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed and unpaid.”
Mrs. Clinton noted that Mr. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, had worked on microfinance in Indonesia and that she had been scheduled to attend a microfinance forum at the women’s conference in Beijing in 1995, in which Mrs. Clinton took part. Ms. Dunham, she said, was too ill to travel.
“We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham’s work in the months and years ahead,” Mrs. Clinton said.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday chided India for continuing to "ratchet up tensions" in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, calling its army chief's remark that all options were open "most unfortunate."
The statement from the foreign ministry in Islamabad was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations between the neighbours in the six weeks since the attacks in Mumbai, which killed 174 people including nine of the gunmen.
India's army chief General Deepak Kapoor said earlier Wednesday that while he regarded war as a "last resort," the current situation meant that "we in India are keeping all our options open and that must be clearly understood."
Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq responded by saying "these statements are most unfortunate." "Pakistan continues to make every effort to defuse tensions in South Asia and has repeatedly stated that it is prepared to extend its cooperation to the Indian government concerning the Mumbai incident," the spokesman said.
Sadiq said Islamabad regretted that India "continues to ratchet up tensions, which is certainly not helpful to the cause of peace, security and stability of the region and in the overall efforts in countering terrorism." "Indulging in the blame game is counterproductive," he said.
ISLAMABAD, Jan 14 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani co-chaired a meeting at Aiwan-e-Sadr here to review the status of United Nations’ International Commission on the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Information Minister Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday the President and Prime Minister both expressed satisfaction at the progress on Pakistan’s request and support received at the UN for the setting up of the fact finding international commission, says a press release.Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Hussain Haroon briefed the meeting.The President and Prime Minister appreciated Haroon’s efforts at the United Nations on the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Commission. They also conveyed their decision to thank UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for his cooperation as well as of members of the UN Security Council.The meeting was also attended by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman, Advisor on Interior Rehman Malik, Advisor on Finance Shaukat Tareen, Attorney General Latif Khosa, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, Secretary General to the President Salman Farooqi and other officials.
Jan. 14, 2009
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST
The illusion of wartime unity at the top of the political pyramid vanished Wednesday, when sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak for seeking to promote a weeklong "humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza Strip.
Following press reports Wednesday that Barak wanted to see a humanitarian cease-fire, sources close to Olmert were quoted as saying that Hamas saw and heard what was going on in Israel and "draws encouragement" from this, concluding that Israel was searching for a way out of the military operation.
"The irresponsibility of ministers - regardless of how senior they are - in leading private initiatives is unfortunate," one of these officials said.
The official said that the publication of these plans "gives encouragement to Hamas, gives a shot in the arm to their backers, and has an immediate effect of the fate of a million Israelis in the South and thousands of IDF soldiers carrying out operations inside Gaza."
The officials said all ideas that had a direct impact on military activities should be discussed privately, and not through the media, and that it was necessary to maintain maximum ambiguity about Israel's plans to achieve the operations' aims.
Barak did not hold his fire, and issued a statement of his own, saying that he would "not be dragged into unfitting or baseless" wartime declarations when a great deal of responsibility was needed.
Barak said the public would know "very well how to judge the degree of responsibility and seriousness of the country's leaders."
A few hours later, Channel 10 reported that Olmert was not only feuding with Barak, but also with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. According to the report - denied immediately by the Prime Minister's Office - Olmert turned down a request by Livni to go to Washington to get US guarantees to stop the arms smuggling into Gaza.
Livni, Olmert and Barak met Wednesday evening, as they have most nights since Operation Cast Lead began, to discuss the future of the operation. While both Barak and Livni have indicated they would like to end the operation now, Olmert's position has been less clear, leading to reports of disagreement between him and his two top ministers about how to wind down the Gaza offensive.
Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan, a member of the security cabinet, jumped into the fray Wednesday, threatening to quit over the politicization of the war and its failure to meet its objectives.
Eitan, in a letter to Olmert, recalled that he called for the postponement of the February 10 election at the start of the operation and he said that his fears that politics would influence the war had proven justified.
"Some of those who had led an impressive military and diplomatic campaign until the last few days have returned to function as politicians," Eitan wrote, in a clear reference to Barak. "I am warning you that the closer we get to the opening of the ballot boxes, the more intertwined politics will be in decisions about the operation."
Eitan, who worked in Israeli intelligence for decades, warned that time was running out to complete the operation and that if Israel did not achieve its goals soon, the next Israeli prime minister would have to return to Gaza in a few months with a new president in Washington.
One senior official with vast diplomatic experience said he could not remember a time when the waging of a war in Israel had become so politicized.
He said that while Olmert wanted to continue with the war to get a decisive victory that would wipe out the memory of the Second Lebanon War, Barak had a political interest in stopping the fighting because he wanted to go to the polls not only as defense minister, but also as head of the country's "peace camp."
Olmert, according to this source, felt that Barak was going behind his back in floating the idea of weeklong cease fire, just as he thought the defense minister circumvented him during the first week of the war by discussing with the French a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire.
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, says he is breaking off ties with Israel in protest against its war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead.
Morales said on Wednesday that he would seek to get top Israeli officials, including Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, charged with "genocide" in the International Criminal Court.
The Bolivian president also dismissed the United Nations and its "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis and said the general assembly should hold an emergency session to condemn the invasion.
"Considering these grave attacks against ... humanity, Bolivia will stop having diplomatic relations with Israel," Morales told diplomats in the Bolivian capital, La Paz.
He also said that Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, should be stripped of
his Nobel Peace Prize for failing to stop the invasion.
Morales's move follows the decision by his ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, to expel Israel's ambassador in the country because of the offensive, calling it a "holocaust".
Morales expelled the US ambassador from Bolivia in September after accusing him of encouraging violent protests against his government.
Chavez did the same not long afterwards in "solidarity" with Morales.
More than 1,000 Palestinians have now died in Israel's offensive in Gaza, around 40 per cent of whom were civilians, aid agencies and Palestinian medics say.
Thirteen Israelis have also died, four from rocket fire from Gaza.
US Afghan tribe plan 'is risky'
Afghanistan's ambassador to the US, Said Jawad, has said a US-backed plan to form local tribal groups to help combat the insurgency is very risky.The US hopes groups similar to those that have had success in Iraq will counter the growing insurgency and the lack of security forces.But Mr Jawad told the BBC the plan could backfire.
He said it could undermine state institutions and actually strengthen warlords and criminals.
Mr Jawad is the latest Afghan official to publicly raise concerns about the US-backed plan."In order to gain a short-term term victory we might be in danger of losing the long-term objective of building state institutions," he said.Mr Jawad said that Afghanistan's traditional tribal structures had been undermined by three decades of conflict.He said if the plan was not properly managed it could strengthen the warlords and criminals.The plan has revived memories of the militias formed in the 1980s by Afghanistan's Communist government. They later became involved in factional warfare.But the US ambassador to Kabul, William Wood, said the plan, which is due to be tried out in Wardak province near Kabul, was not a re-creation of those tribal militias.He said the groups would not be armed by the Americans, but receive training, clothing and military back-up.The governor of Wardak says the plan is still being discussed and the groups will be involved in things such a reconstruction as well as security.But critics say the groups will have to have weapons to be effective and are wondering where those arms will come from.
PESHAWAR: Noted anthropologist from NWFP, Samar Minallah has produced a song in Dari and Pashto languages to highlight the importance of girl education in Afghanistan and Pakhtun regions of Pakistan.‘Allaho: A Lullaby for You, My Daughter’ is one of the first lullabies that have been dedicated to girls. Traditionally lullabies are made for sons alone. The new song is a welcome break from the traditional practice. Both in Dari and Pashto, the five-minute-long song is a tribute to little girls in all the regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan where schools are being destroyed, depriving girls of their right to education.One of the verses in Pashto is: ‘Ookhiyaara sha taleem oka; Da tol jahan tazeem oka; Da khalqo khidmatgaara sha; Har kaar pa lowar tasleem oka’ If translated into English, it means: ‘Become clever and educated; Respect and serve mankind; Ready for the challenges of life; Learning makes the journey of life easy.’A noted Afghan singer, Naghma has sung the song, whereas the video has been conceptualised and shot by Samar Minallah, who has to her credit a number of songs and documentaries that won her recognition both at home and abroad.
‘Allaho’ is a tribute to the little girls of this region and I hope it will also reach out to the audience it is prepared for, believes Uzma Mehboob, who works with an advocacy-based civil society organisation. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is launching the video song in Islamabad today. The production and launch of the song has acquired an added significance in that hundreds of schools have been burnt down in recent months both in Pakistan and Afghanistan by those who are not ready to allow girl education despite the fact that women constitute almost half of the population of both the neighbouring countries. Parents and students have lost hope of schools reopening in this volatile atmosphere. Adding to the worries of the girl students and their parents, even girl education was also banned in Swat, though later primary-level schooling was allowed. Samar is a filmmaker and a research anthropologist with an M Phil from the University of Cambridge. For the last 15 years, she has been highlighting the plight of women and children through media. She has a devoted love for Pakhtun culture. Some of the documentaries by Samar are ‘Swara — A Bridge Over Troubled Waters’, ‘Bibi Shireenay — Where Honour Comes From’, ‘Shinwaray Lawangeena — Where the Waters Meet’, ‘The Silver Lining’ on HIV/AIDS that depicts how married women pay the price of contracting it from their husbands due to lack of awareness, ‘The Missing Link’ that highlights the mobility issues faced by women of Pakistan, ‘The Hidden Colours — Highlighting the Tangible and Intangible Culture of NWFP’, ‘Sabaun and Naveen Sawail — Tuberculosis in the NWFP’ and basic information about its treatment given in Pashto and Hindko, respectively, ‘Dar Pa Dar’ — highlighting the long-term emotional impact of war on the lives of Afghan refugee women and ‘Da Bajaur Guloona’ that highlights the problems of the people displaced from Bajaur Agency.Samar is the winner of Perdita Huston Human Rights Activist Award 2007 for effectively using electronic media to highlight the lives of women in Pakistan. In 2007, her documentary called the ‘Silver Lining’ was chosen as the top film on HIV/AIDS amongst various countries in a Unesco-sponsored filmmaking workshop. She was selected as a delegate to attend the Young Leaders Conference 2007 in Singapore arranged by the Asia Society New York. The documentaries have been shown at various international film festivals and have won laurels. Samar heads a non-governmental organisation - Ethnomedia — that works in the field of media and communications for a social change. It strives to highlight issues of human rights through electronic media in a culturally sensitive way. In the last five years, Ethnomedia has produced videos on a variety of topics that are being used by various government and non-government organisations for the purpose of advocacy. Its main focus is to highlight culturally sanctioned forms of violence all over Pakistan and disseminate it at various levels for a stronger impact.
PESHAWAR: The NWFP government Wednesday introduced in the provincial assembly The NWFP Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2008 and The North-West Frontier Province Salaries, Allowances and Privileges Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009 seeking increase in the salaries, allowances and privileges of the provincial ministers, speaker, deputy speaker and members of the provincial assembly.
Minister for law and parliamentary affairs Arshad Abdullah moved the bill, who had earlier moved the Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Ordinance on August 26, 2008 seeking increase in the ministers’ salaries, allowances and privileges on August 26, 2008, but the lawmakers from both the treasury and opposition benches unanimously opposed the government and insisted that their salaries and perks should also be brought on a par with those of the assemblies of other provinces.
The provincial assembly had also adopted a unanimous resolution asking for increase in the salaries and allowances of the members.
The lawmakers were confident that the ordinance and bills presented in the House will be
ultimately passed unanimously as none of the members would like to annoy his colleagues
by opposing a bill seeking increase in the salaries and allowances of both the ministers and members.
However, some members were still not satisfied with the increase, saying the meagre increase would defame the public representatives. The MPAs, including some of women, recorded their protest by visiting the press gallery, saying they were getting the lowest salaries from the MPAs of the assemblies of other three provinces. “We are getting salaries even less than the members of the backward province of Balochistan,” an MPA, wishing not to be named, said.
Despite the passage of the Bill, one lady MPA said, they will receive lesser salaries than members of the other provinces. “I will oppose it on the floor of the House,” she said. The passage of the ordinance relating to increase in the salaries, allowances and privileges as an act of law, the minister will get maximum increase of Rs24,000 in their house rent, while amendments in the laws relating to the salaries and allowances of the members of the provincial assembly will also benefit the holders of the offices of speaker, deputy speaker and leader of the opposition in the house.After the passage of the bill, the main beneficiary would be the speaker, who will get a discretionary grant of Rs0.5 million per annum.
The new allowances and privileges of the speaker is an amount of Rs2,000 per month in head of the usage of cellular phone, his travelling standard will also go up from economy class to economy plus in Pakistan International Airline (PIA) and from ordinary class in train to upgraded two-air-conditioned births in Pakistan Railways. The daily allowances of the chair would also increase from Rs450 per day to Rs4,000 per day.
Similarly, the discretionary grant of the deputy speaker would also been increased through the bill from Rs0.3 million while speaker and the deputy speaker will also be entitled to
an allowance of Rs2,000 per day under the head of cellular phone.
Leader of the opposition will get salary, allowances and privileges equal to a cabinet minister, whose house rent would be increased from Rs16,000 per month to Rs40,000 per month when the bill is passed.
PESHAWAR: Lawmakers in the NWFP Assembly, who are supposed to do legislation and plan and approve development projects, are hardly following the set rules and regulations meant for smoothly conducting the assembly business.
Except a few, majority of the MPAs in the assembly are either unaware of the existing assembly procedures or deliberately avoiding the rules to create hurdles in the smooth functioning of the House.
The current provincial assembly is about to complete its parliamentary year next month, but probably it has not a single day to its credit when the session was started on its scheduled time and the members have followed the day agenda.
A member is supposed to speak on a ‘point of order’ when rules and regulations related to the assembly are being violated or a very important matter has to be raised however, in the assembly some of the MPAs think it as their constitutional right to say whatsoever comes to their mind on a ‘point of order’.
Similarly, in question-hour, a mover or other members have to add supplementary questions if they are not satisfied with the written replies related to a department’s performance, but it has become a routine in the assembly that most of the time has been spent on the already given answers, while sometimes irrelevant quarries are being asked from the ministers concerned.
Similarly a member starts lengthy debate on a call attention notice, which is supposed to just divert the attention of the treasury benches towards a problem or issue related to their constituency or other parts of the province.
On Wednesday, Mufti Kifayatullah of the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) was insisting on to add a supplementary query to a question that was declared lapsed by the speaker in the absence of Dr Zakirulla MPA, who was the mover of same question.
Despite the explanation by the Speaker and minister for parliamentary affairs, the JUI-F legislator succeeded in taking the floor by showing no respect to the rules of the House and ruling of the chair.
In another case, Zamin Khan of the PPP was asked the chair to explain the problem through his ‘calling attention notice’ instead of delivering a lengthy speech, however, as usual the MPA continued unabated. Even the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Arshad Abdullah, who was responding to the queries related to Works and Services Department on behalf of the chief minister, made himself as a laughing stock when he wanted to refer a question to the committee about which the committee had already announced its recommendations.
An interesting situation developed when Mufti Kifayatullah and Ghulam Muhammad of the PML-Q suggested some amendments in the NWFP Sarhad Development Authority Mineral Wing Bill and were insisting that their proposed amendments were of most important nature. But they did not say ‘ayes’ when the Speaker put the amendments for knowing the opinion of the House. Perhaps they could not understand the English phrase “Those who are in favour of the amendments say ayes”.
KABUL (AFP) — The United States is hoping a strategy similar to the one it used to improve security in Iraq, including an influx of troops, will work in Afghanistan -- one of president-elect Barack Obama's priorities.
But US and Afghan officials say the mission will be more difficult here as Afghanistan is splintered by tribal rivalries and weakened by the existence of militant safe havens across the border in Pakistan.
"We cannot just take the tactics, techniques and procedures that worked in Iraq and employ them in Afghanistan," General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, recently told Foreign Affairs.
At the start of 2006, Afghanistan was touted as a US military success, while Iraq was mired in a seemingly endless spiral of violence.
Today, the tables have turned: 2008 was the deadliest year for US soldiers in Afghanistan since they arrived in 2001, and the least deadly in Iraq since the start of the invasion there in 2003.
Washington helped reduce the violence in Iraq and pave the way for progress toward political reconciliation by sending more troops, intensifying operations and co-opting some of the rebels into militias paid to help maintain security.
The US military is hoping to implement a similar plan in Afghanistan, where security has worsened in the past two years as the Taliban-led insurgency has gathered pace.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 extra US troops are due in Afghanistan this year, almost doubling the number of American soldiers on the ground from the current 32,000 -- compared with 146,000 in Iraq.
Nearly 35,000 troops from other countries are also deployed here.
The bulk of the US reinforcements are expected to be sent to the south and east -- hotbeds of insurgent activity along the porous 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border with Pakistan.
US officials and senior Obama advisers told Tuesday's Washington Post that the deployments were not an Iraq-like "surge", but rather a way to gain time to re-evaluate US goals and develop a new sweeping strategy for Afghanistan.
Last month, outgoing US President George W. Bush acknowledged an influx of troops here would likely make things worse before they get better.
"You'll see violence tick up," Bush told reporters on Air Force One en route to Kabul for a farewell visit.
"The degree of difficulty in Afghanistan is high. Nevertheless, the mission is essential."
The differences between Iraq and Afghanistan are manifold, and the fight for Afghanistan could be far longer than the conflict in Iraq.
Infrastructure here is dire, with a lack of secondary roads making it more difficult for troops to manoeuvre, and there are fewer skilled workers.
Beyond the logistical difficulties, the main challenge appears to be whether foreign forces can maintain a semblance of stability long enough for Kabul to build up its own security forces.
In Iraq, the US army has already handed over power to local authorities in 13 of 18 provinces with 560,000 policemen and 260,000 soldiers protecting 28 million people.
The security forces in Afghanistan, which has a similar population but a larger surface area covered by rugged mountainous terrain, lag well behind those of Iraq, with only about 80,000 soldiers and 70,000 police.
Corruption is rife in the police, while the absence of government authority in villages is often cited as a reason for the resurgence of the Taliban.
To address these shortcomings, the United States has spoken of creating local militias -- as in Iraq -- for community-level security.
But the idea has stirred concern in Kabul, which remembers all too well the bloody factional conflicts of the 1980s.
"Afghanistan is not Iraq," said Hamidullah Tarzi, a finance minister in the 1989-1992 communist regime.
"Here the people are much more divided and the tribal issue is very strong -- all these (new) militias are going to fight each other."
Ahmad Nader Nadery, of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, says the answer lies not in a US troop surge, but in turning the conflict into "an Afghan war."
"The solution is to reform the police and to reinforce the army," he told AFP.
Another complicating factor for the United States is the question of how to flush Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants out of Pakistan's lawless tribal zones along the Afghan border.
"One cannot adequately address the challenges in Afghanistan without adding Pakistan into the equation," Petraeus has said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged a new era of cooperation following talks in Kabul last week.
But questions remain about Islamabad's ability to control its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which Kabul says is the godfather of the Taliban.
The United States could also face problems if its NATO partners abandon the fight.
The alliance's supreme commander, US General Bantz Craddock, predicted that US forces would have to be in Afghanistan for "at least" a decade.
But he admitted that financial concerns and low public support could prompt European countries to pull troops out just as Obama looks for back-up.