Afghans welcomed Barack Obama's U.S. election victory Wednesday, saying they looked forward to a greater focus on the war with Taliban insurgents that has killed at least 4,000 people this year alone, reported Reuters.
Most Afghans were grateful to President George W. Bush's administration when it ended the Taliban's austere Islamist rule for sheltering al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks.
But with the war now in its eighth year, Afghans are caught between a deepening and resilient Taliban insurgency on one side and on the other, much feared U.S. and NATO military might which backs an Afghan government most see as corrupt and ineffective.
"I applaud the American people ... and hope this election and President Obama's coming into office will bring peace to Afghanistan," President Hamid Karzai told a news conference.
During his election campaign, Obama was critical of Karzai over his failure to tackle widespread corruption, the booming trade in illegal opium and over the effectiveness of his government -- all factors that fuel the Taliban insurgency.
But Obama pledged a new focus on Afghanistan, which analysts agree the Bush administration neglected by sending troops and vital resources to Iraq, giving the Taliban a chance to regroup and relaunch an insurgency that now threatens the capital.
"I'm glad Obama won. He's young, he's energetic, he's spoken of the need to pay more attention to Afghanistan," said women's activist and radio station chief Jamila Mujahid. "Bush made a mistake by sending troops and resources to Iraq."
Afghan officials called for more diplomatic effort to bring Afghanistan and Pakistan closer together to stamp out safe havens the Taliban enjoy on the rugged border between the two countries.
Of several dozen Afghan officials, parliamentarians and influential journalists attending an election event in the country's only five-star hotel, almost all backed Obama and the Illinois senator romped home in a mock poll of those present.
But no one in Afghanistan underestimates the size of the task ahead for the new U.S. administration in tackling the country's complex, formidable problems and ending 30 years of conflict.
General David Petraeus, the new overall commander of U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was in Kabul Wednesday as part of a strategy review of Afghan operations.
The United States has more than 30,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, but together with NATO allies, suffered more casualties during the summer fighting season than in Iraq where there are more than double the number of troops.
With a growing chorus of Western leaders now say the Afghan conflict cannot be won by military means alone, the U.S. military is likely to also recommend the new president focus more on development and promoting good governance in Afghanistan to undercut the insurgency.
U.S. soldiers stationed across the country rose early to gather round television screens to watch the election results.