President Obama has called an urgent meeting with his senior advisers this evening, as he tries to decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. His field commanders want 40,000 more troops, which would take US manpower to well over 100,000. But this year has been the most deadly since the US-led invasion in 2001. Four more American soldiers died in the last 24 hours, as the president prepares to announce future US strategy against the Taliban.
It seems likely US fatalities will top 300 before Christmas, and civilian casualties have also been the worst in eight years of fighting. The Taliban has been growing in strength with hardliners believed able to offer money to persuade poor people to take up arms. The fighters are often better paid than the security forces facing them, and much of this money comes from Taliban-controlled opium and heroin production. Today Washington agreed to reward 27 Afghan provinces with nearly 40 million dollars, or 27 million euros, for eliminating or substantially reducing poppy cultivation. However several experts say there has been extensive production this year, and huge stockpiles have built up. Others wonder why the nations engaged in Afghanistan do not simply make it more attractive for local people to join the security forces by paying them more.