WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Keith Ellison, back from a trip last week to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said today that a new strategy is needed in the region – one that doesn’t include sending more troops to U.S. troops to Afghanistan until that country’s president, Hamid Karzai, cleans up corruption and “makes himself into a president that the United States can support.”
Karzai, Ellison said, has placed warlords and people connected with Afghanistan’s vast drug network in ministerial positions – equivalent to U.S. Cabinet posts. International election observers also accused Karzai backers of rigging a recent presidential election.
“He will undermine his own country by engaging with people like that,” Ellison said. “You just can’t tolerate that.”
President Obama has said he will make a decision whether or not to increase troop levels in Afghanistan shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia. He is due to land in Washington this afternoon.
“A lot of the conversation is revolving around numbers,” Ellison said, noting differing ideas within the military on the number of additional troops required to stabilize the fledgling nation. “The conversation shouldn’t focus on how many troops, but on what they’re going to do.”
During his time in the two West Asian states, Ellison met with ministers, including women whose voices were largely silenced during the rule of the Taliban, which is fighting to regain control of Afghanistan and increase its hold in Pakistan. He said any continued U.S. mission to the region should be focused on securing population centers and strengthening civil society. A similar strategy has been widely credited within the Obama administration for decreasing sectarian violence in Iraq.