The Obama administration has conducted a vigorous internal debate over its new strategy for Afghanistan, expected to be unveiled by the president in a speech Friday.
According to two U.S. government sources close to the issue, senior policymakers were divided over how comprehensive to make the strategy, involving an initial boost of 17,000 U.S. troops.
On the one side were Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, who argued in closed-door meetings for a minimal strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan that one source described as a “lowest common denominator” approach.
The goal of these advocates was to limit civilian and other nonmilitary efforts in Afghanistan and focus on a main military objective of denying safe haven to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.
The other side of the debate was led by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy for the region, who along with U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a major nation-building effort.
The Holbrooke-PetraeusClinton faction, according to the sources, prevailed. The result is expected to be a major, long-term military and civilian program to reinvent Afghanistan from one of the most backward, least developed nations to a relatively prosperous democratic state.
According to one defense official close to the debate, the key to success in Afghanistan remains eliminating terrorist safe havens and training camps, which are no longer in Afghanistan but in Pakistan.
“However, all of our actions are oriented on four lines of operation — security to set conditions for governance, development, rule of law with information operations and counternarcotics cross-cutting efforts,” the official said.
The key to any strategy remains Pakistan and its border regions, which remain terror safe havens, said the official, who, like the other sources, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Additionally, Gen. Petraeus made sure the Afghan strategy sought to borrow from the successful counterinsurgency strategy and tactics used in Iraq. According to one official in Afghanistan, many of the Afghans are not “hateful against the West.”
A White House spokesman and an aide to Mr. Holbrooke declined to comment on the strategy or the debate over it. to launching its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which Pyongyang has said will put a satellite in orbit.
Jane’s Intelligence Review, the British publication, obtained recent DigitalGlobe imagery of the Musudan launch site that shows the missile erected on a launch pad.
The magazine’s editor, Christian Le Miere, stated that based on a review of satellite photos from March 11 and 16, “it is evident that the upper stage of the umbilical tower is open and possible delineations to aid emplacement have been placed on the pad to center each stage of the [space launch vehicle] as it is constructed.”
Another key indicator of imminent launch is that a crane is visible in the March 16 photo and was moved over the launch pad, suggesting preparations for launch are nearly complete.
Jane’s accepted North Korean claims that the rocket is a space launcher, dubbed Unha-2 by Pyongyang, that will attempt to place a communications satellite in orbit.
North Korea has notified international air-and seacontrol authorities that it plans to conduct a space launch between April 4 and 8.
A defense official familiar with intelligence reports said the launcher was assessed to be a Taepodong-2 long-range missile but that North Korea’s government is following Iran’s lead in publicly asserting that its long-range missile program is a civilian