WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul was another sign of a "severe deterioration" of security in Afghanistan, and promised to go on the offensive against Al-Qaeda.
Obama's remarks on Monday came as the fresh carnage in Kabul and rising deaths among coalition troops battling Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants thrust the Afghan conflict, once seen as the "forgotten" war, into the center of the 2008 White House campaign.
Monday's car bomb ripped into the embassy compound in the capital, killing two Indian diplomats and two Indian guards and nearly three dozen Afghans. Nearly 150 people were wounded.
Afghan officials accused Pakistan of being behind the blast, saying the attack had the hallmarks of Islamabad's intelligence agency.
Obama told reporters that the bombing "is one more indication of the severe deterioration that we've seen in the security situation in Afghanistan."
"I have consistently stated that one of (the) other reasons for us to begin a careful phased deployment out of Iraq, is that we are under-manned in Afghanistan," the Illinois senator said in St. Louis, Missouri, on Monday.
"And as president of the United States I will do everything that we can to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda, who have reconstituted themselves," he added.
"It is absolutely critical for us to go on the offensive."
Obama is promising to redeploy large numbers of US combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan if he is elected president in November, in an effort to quell resurgent militant activity.
His Republican rival John McCain however maintains Iraq is the central front of the "war on terror," adding that a US withdrawal would embolden terrorists and US enemies and that the two wars cannot be seen in isolation.
Obama argues that the huge US troop presence in Iraq is draining resources from the anti-terror effort in Afghanistan.
The Illinois senator will lay out his plan for both conflicts in visits to Iraq and Afghanistan expected later this month, details of which have yet to be released for security reasons.
Democrats have long argued that the Bush administration took its eye off the search for Al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, and the battle with the Taliban by invading Iraq in 2003.
Obama's foreign policy advisor Susan Rice last week accused McCain of fully supporting Bush administration policy on Iraq, which she said had dangerously distracted attention from the anti-terror fight in Afghanistan.
"Every day, there's a new report that underscores the reality that Afghanistan is sliding toward chaos," Rice told reporters on a conference call.
Obama has vowed to get most combat troops out of Iraq at the rate of one or two brigades a month, a process which he says should be complete within 16 months.
But McCain says such a plan would imperil gains made from the a troop surge strategy and argues that Obama's solution is too simplistic.
"To somehow think it is an either-or situation, either Afghanistan or Iraq, is a fundamental misreading of the situation in the Middle East," McCain told reporters last week.
"What happens in Iraq matters in Afghanistan," McCain said.
"If we had failed in Iraq if we had pursued the policies vociferously advocated by Senator Obama, we would have risked a wider war.
"We need to succeed in Iraq, and I am confident we can succeed in Afghanistan, but it's not just a matter of more troops."
The dispute over Afghanistan reflects differing political perceptions of the war on terror launched after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The issue has moved to the forefront due to the death toll among international troops in the two wars: it is rising in Afghanistan, but decreasing in Iraq.
June was the deadliest month for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, with 49 soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the separate US-led coalition killed.
Thirty-one soldiers including 29 Americans were killed in Iraq in June, despite the fact that there are more than twice as many troops there as in Afghanistan.
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