The General in charge of the military effort in Afghanistan is calling for a chance in strategy:
KABUL — The commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan said Monday in an assessment of the war that a new strategy was needed to fight the Taliban, while NATO officials disclosed he is expected to separately request more troops.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent his strategic review of the Afghan war to the Pentagon and NATO headquarters Monday. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the 60-day review to size up the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan as Taliban attacks rise and U.S. deaths spiral upward.
“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,” McChrystal said in a statement Monday.
McChrystal’s report recommends focusing the U.S. and NATO counterinsurgency efforts on the Afghan population and less on militants, one of the NATO officials in Afghanistan said.
Last week McChrystal said troops “must change the way that we think, act and operate” in newly released counterinsurgency guidance. McChrystal hopes to instill a new approach in troops to make the safety of villagers the top priority.
McChrystal said the supply of fighters in the Afghan insurgency is “essentially endless,” the reason violence continues to rise. He called on troops to think of how they would expect a foreign army to operate in their home countries, “among your families and your children, and act accordingly,” to try to win over the Afghan population.
On a related note, Anthony Cordesman, who was on the panel that advised McChrystal on a new Afghan strategy, explains why the United States is losing the war in Afghanistan:
The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade. Our country left a power vacuum in most of Afghanistan that the Taliban and other jihadist insurgents could exploit and occupy, and Washington did not respond when the U.S. Embassy team in Kabul requested more resources.
The Bush administration gave priority to sending forces to Iraq, it blustered about the successes of civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan that were grossly undermanned and underresourced, and it did not react to the growing corruption of Hamid Karzai’s government or the major problems created by national caveats and restrictions on the use of allied forces and aid. It treated Pakistan as an ally when it was clear to U.S. experts on the scene that the Pakistani military and intelligence service did (and do) tolerate al-Qaeda and Afghan sanctuaries and still try to manipulate Afghan Pashtuns to Pakistan’s advantage.
Further, it never developed an integrated civil-military plan or operational effort even within the U.S. team in Afghanistan; left far too much of the aid effort focused on failed development programs; and denied the reality of insurgent successes in ways that gave insurgents the initiative well into 2009.
The problem I see with both McChrystal’s proposal and Cordesman’s is simple; neither one of them addresses the reason that we went into Afghanistan to begin with.
In case you’ve forgotten, we went into the country initially to capture and destroy the elements of al Qaeda that had launched the September 11th attacks. By and large, that mission was accomplished long ago and the remaining elements of al Qaeda have been reduced to hiding in the northern provinces of Pakistan and smuggling audio tapes of someone who may or may not be Osama bin Laden to Al Jazeera on a semi-occasional basis.
If destroying al Qaeda is the goal, as the President has said, then why aren’t we fighting them where they actually are ?
If it’s not, then what are we still doing there ?