President Barack Obama says he needs to see how fast Afghanistan can be stabilized and led toward a more democratic government before deciding whether more troops are needed.
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Obama said the hardest thing he has had to do so far in his administration was to order 17,000 troops to Afghanistan on top of an estimated 38,000 that were already in Afghanistan. The interview was released on the Web Saturday.
He did not rule out the possibility of sending even more troops, while stressing such a decision was premature at this point and that U.S. military action is not the only answer to bringing stability to the region.
"We have to see our military action in the context of a broader effort to stabilize security in the country, allow national elections to take place in Afghanistan and then provide the space for the vital development work that's needed so that a tolerant and open, democratically elected government is considered far more legitimate than a Taliban alternative," Obama said.
"My strong view is that we are not going to succeed simply by piling on more and more troops," he added. "The military component is critical to accomplishing that goal, but it is not a sufficient element by itself."
Obama said he wrestled with his options before making the decision in February to order a surge of troops. He said he was sobered by the idea that many men and women could be harmed but that a surge was unavoidable.
"The starting point was a recognition that the existing trajectory was not working, that the Taliban had made advances, that our presence in Afghanistan was declining in popularity, that the instability along the border region was destabilizing Pakistan as well," Obama said.