Views From The Ground: Afghans Offer Mixed Reactions To Obama’s Surge Strategy

Following President Obama’s Afghanistan policy address last night, the media prominently featured political strategists, U.S. lawmakers, foreign policy thinkers, and other domestic pundits to respond to the President’s strategy.

One group of people who has been largely left out of the media’s discourse following the speech has been the Afghans themselves, who will be most directly affected by the surge in troops. However, a handful of media outlets did document the reactions of some of the people in the region. Here are some examples:

Afghan Parliamentarians:

— “[Obama] may not be convincing the normal people or the Taliban, but by saying these things in the speech, this gives to the politicians…a free hand now. We are the ones…to win over our people,” said Khalid Pashtun, a member of Parliament from Kandahar.

— “It was a wonderful speech for America…but when it comes to strategy here in Afghanistan there was nothing new which was really disappointing,” said parliamentarian Shukriya Barakzai. “It seems to me that President Obama is very far away from the reality and truth in Afghanistan. His strategy was to pay lip-service, and did not focus on civilians, nation-building, democracy and human rights.”

— “People are starting to view the Americans as occupiers, and in that context more troops would be risky,” said Hanif Shah Hosseini, a parliamentarian from Khost province.

Afghan tribal leaders and government officials:

— “I don’t think we will be able to solve our problems with military force,” said Muhammad Qasim, a tribal elder from Kandahar. “We can solve them by providing jobs and development and by using local leaders to negotiate with the Taliban.”

— “When they increase the troops, the Taliban will respond by increasing their attacks on the foreigners — but that will not only be against the foreigners, it will be against Afghan civilians who live in the same area,” said Bershna Nadery, a woman who works in the Afghan Finance Ministry.

— “Eighteen months is a great opportunity,” said Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, praising Obama’s promise to begin drawing down troops in eighteen months. “Afghans must step up efforts to assume greater responsibility over the security of their country.”

Afghan citizens:

— “I welcome this decision, it’s a good decision. We need a larger number of foreign troops in order to eliminate the terrorists and win the war in Afghanistan,” said Fawad Habib, a student in Kabul.

— “If we get more troops, there will be more bloodshed,” responded shopkeeper Noor Muhammad. “Only Afghans themselves can solve this problem.”

— “Even if they bring the whole of America, they won’t be able to stabilize Afghanistan,” said Esmatullah, a young construction worker in Kabul. “Only Afghans understand our traditions, geography and way of life.”

— “One American soldier costs about $1 million a year,” said Jabar Wafaie, a security guard from Uruzgon Province working in Kabul. “The troops that are already here, they can do well now, if they wanted they could destroy the Taliban. … The additional 30,000 troops is going to be a good opportunity for the Taliban to recruit more.”

Additionally, Al Jazeera English was on the ground in Afghanistan yesterday and interviewed Afghans about their reactions to Obama’s speech. Watch it:

Asked to assess the sentiment amongst Afghans, a senior administration official told ThinkProgress the population is “overwhelmingly against the insurgency and the Taliban.” “What you see in Afghanistan is a desire for commitment and change,” the official added.