The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in failure,” according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”
His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.
McChrystal concludes the document’s five-page Commander’s Summary on a note of muted optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”
But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians. [continued…]
From his headquarters in Kabul, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal sees one clear path to achieve President Obama’s core goal of preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing havens in Afghanistan: “Success,” he writes in his assessment, “demands a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign.”
Inside the White House, the way forward in Afghanistan is no longer so clear.
Although Obama endorsed a strategy document in March that called for “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy,” there have been significant changes in Afghanistan and Washington since then. A disputed presidential election, an erosion in support for the war effort among Democrats in Congress and the American public, and a sharp increase in U.S. casualties have prompted the president and his top advisers to reexamine their assumptions about the U.S. role in defeating the Taliban insurgency.
Instead of debating whether to give McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, more troops, the discussion in the White House is now focused on whether, after eight years of war, the United States should vastly expand counterinsurgency efforts along the lines he has proposed — which involve an intensive program to improve security and governance in key population centers — or whether it should begin shifting its approach away from such initiatives and simply target leaders of terrorist groups who try to return to Afghanistan. [continued…]
The big Afghanistan debate in Washington is not over whether more troops are needed, but just who they should be: Americans or Afghans — Us or Them. Having just spent time in Afghanistan seeing how things stand, I wouldn’t bet on Them.
Frankly, I wouldn’t bet on Us either. In eight years, American troops have worn out their welcome. Their very presence now incites opposition, but that’s another story. It’s Them — the Afghans — I want to talk about.
Afghans are Afghans. They have their own history, their own culture, their own habitual ways of thinking and behaving, all complicated by a modern experience of decades of war, displacement, abject poverty, and incessant meddling by foreign governments near and far — of which the United States has been the most powerful and persistent. Afghans do not think or act like Americans. Yet Americans in power refuse to grasp that inconvenient point. [continued…]
The big winner in the fraud-ridden, never-ending Afghanistan elections is turning out to be a party not even on the ballot: the Taliban.
A stream of revelations about systematic cheating during last month’s vote has given the Taliban fresh ammunition in their propaganda campaign to portray President Hamid Karzai’s administration as hopelessly corrupt. Infighting among U.S., U.N. and European diplomats over whether to accept the results with Karzai the winner or force a new round of voting has also fed the Taliban line that the government in Kabul is merely a puppet of foreign powers.
Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s reclusive leader, broke his silence Saturday to denounce “the so-called elections which were fraught with fraud and lies and which were categorically rejected by the people.”
In a statement released on the Internet to mark the end of Ramadan, Omar also railed against what he called “the rampant corruption in the surrogate Kabul administration, the embezzlement, drug trafficking, the existence of mafia networks, the tyranny and high-handedness of the warlords,” according to a translation by the NEFA Foundation, a terrorism research group. [continued…]