Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Saeed Shah in Islamabad
January 26, 2009
The Obama administration warned the US public yesterday to brace itself for an increase in American casualties as it prepares to step up the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan.
Against a background of widespread protests in Pakistan and Afghanistan over US operations since Obama became president, the vice-president, Joe Biden, said yesterday that US forces would be engaged in many more operations as the US takes the fight to its enemies in the region.
The Obama administration is to double the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 60,000 and when asked in a television interview if the US public should expect more American casualties, Biden said: “I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick.”
Greater US involvement in Afghanistan is a political risk for Obama, with the danger that mounting American casualties could make the war as unpopular as Iraq. Obama, in his first military action as president, sanctioned two missile attacks inside Pakistan on Friday, killing 22 people, reportedly women and children among them. The attacks drew criticism from Pakistani officials at the weekend.