WASHINGTON (AFP) - Barack Obama hopes his new Afghanistan strategy will replicate the US success in Iraq of co-opting hardliners, but even the president himself warns the task will be tougher. Experts said the key US challenge would not be to directly fight Al-Qaeda as in Iraq but to bolster security and development - and in the process, empower an Afghan government sorely needing credibility. Afghanistan has fought off invaders from the British to the Soviets, and the US-backed Kabul government has virtually no influence in parts of the rugged nation - a far cry from Iraq where Saddam Hussein had ruled with an iron fist. Violence started falling in Iraq when Sunni tribal leaders in 2007 allied with US forces against Al-Qaeda extremists - just as more US troops poured into Iraq under then president George W Bush's "surge" strategy. Obama, who ordered another 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan even before unveiling his new strategy, praised military commander David Petraeus for "reaching out to people that we would consider to be the fundamentalists." "There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region. But the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex," Obama recently told The New York Times. Said Jawad, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, warned that "Afghanistan is not Iraq" and urged the Obama team to let Kabul authorities handle any talks with the Taliban. He said the Taliban and Al-Qaeda had deeper roots in Afghanistan, where US-led forces overthrew the hardline government in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. After three decades of war, Afghanistan has few of the tribal leaders seen in Iraq's Sunni provinces such as Anbar and instead is filled with "warlords and narco-traffickers," he said. "To arm them will have serious repercussions to the stability of Afghanistan and the region," the ambassador said. Experts said that unlike in Iraq, insurgents gained ground in Afghanistan due more to the absence, not the presence, of multinational forces. John Dempsey, a Kabul-based expert at the United States Institute of Peace, said the Taliban offered swift justice to a population fed up with lawlessness. "My focus if I was in the Obama administration would be not to do an 'Afghan awakening' like in Anbar province but to convince local communities that the state has something to offer them," Dempsey said. Major General Rick Olson, the former operational commander for coalition forces in Afghanistan, warned that just sending more troops would not bring stability to a population far more rural and dispersed than Iraq's. "The conditions that favoured success in Iraq are conspicuously lacking in Afghanistan," he wrote in The Christian Science Monitor. Olson said the United States needed a "village-by-village, tribe-by-tribe" approach in Afghanistan that includes everything from micro loans to carefully targeted military operations. The Centre for American Progress, a think tank with scholars close to Obama's Democratic Party, released a study calling for the new US approach to link counterinsurgency and development operations. US forces should ramp up development of areas once they are under control, showing the central government's influence, the study said. Patrick Cronin, the director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies who took part in a simulation for the study, said the United States needed to steadily train Afghan authorities and put them in charge. Some analysts have argued that Iraqi tribal leaders supported US forces after it became abundantly clear that they did not intend to stay. "Some say that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires," Cronin said. "I'm not disheartened by that because the United States should not aspire to be an empire."