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Wednesday, 03.31.2010, 05:29am (GMT)
USA Today By Alan Gomez
So when Ghaus listened to President Obama's speech Sunday night, the Kabul-area farmer was left with a very familiar feeling.
"Many countries have come to help and they've built bridges, roads, schools and hospitals. Many presidents have come and given speeches," Ghaus said. "But what have they done for security?"
Ghaus echoed the sentiments of many Afghans in Kabul on Monday as they responded to Obama's first trip to the war-torn country as president.
After meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama spoke briefly to a crowd of U.S. servicemembers at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. The remarks were carried live on several Afghan TV stations.
"The United States is a partner, but our intent is to make sure that the Afghans have the capacity to provide for their own security. That is core to our mission," Obama said.
Some in this region were encouraged by Obama's visit.
Shafiqllah Anwari, 36, a Kabul house painter, said the visit gave him hope that Americans won't forget about Afghanistan the way they did in the years immediately after the ouster of the Taliban.
"His trip assured me that U.S. support will continue," Anwari said. "It shows that the American people continue to support Afghanistan."
But others were more skeptical.
Majib Rahman, a civil engineer, felt that Obama's trip was not intended for Afghan ears, but designed to send a message to other countries in the region.
"He wanted to show that troops will be here for a longer time," Rahman said. "He wanted to show their presence to Iran, to China, to Russia — to show them their dominance in the region."
Mohammad Khan, a member of the Afghan parliament, felt the trip was intended to scold Karzai for recent visits to Iran, Pakistan and China.
"In the private talks, (Obama) must have pressed on these issues," Khan said. "It's not possible to maintain two strategies: to have friendship (with the Americans) and to make plots with America's enemies."
Shamsuddin Fazeli, 50, who has supplied fuel to U.S. troops during the last eight years, said Obama's appearance was merely a show to convince Afghans and Americans that they have good intentions in the country.
Fazeli said the lack of progress he sees in his country makes him feel that Obama has no intention of leaving, and actually wants to maintain an American military presence in the country to combat aggression from neighboring states.
"The Taliban are a small group. If Obama and the international community really wanted peace, they would have it in two months," Fazeli said. "They found (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein in a basement in the desert, but why haven't they found Osama bin Laden, (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar? That means they're not serious about peace. They want to change Afghanistan into a battlefield to conduct attacks on other countries."
Obama has taken ownership of the war since assuming office, boosting the number of troops, putting in a new commander and retooling strategy. He has ordered an additional 30,000 servicemembers to the country. By the end of summer, there will be 100,000 U.S. troops, up from 34,000 when Obama came into office more than a year ago.
U.S. and Afghan forces recently launched a major offensive that broke the Taliban's grip on key areas in the south and are preparing a campaign to secure Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual homeland.
Nasrat, an Afghan engineer who like many Afghans goes by only one name, felt that Obama was truly here to help. But like Ghaus and so many other Afghans, he's tired of speeches and simply wants to see some results and experience a life without war.
"We have been promised so many times," he said. "Afghanistan has been at war for 30 years and our ears have heard a lot. But we have seen very little."