US Afghanistan commander demands extra US troops to save Afghan mission
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the Afghanistan war, leaked to the US media, that without extra troops within the next year on top of the 66,000 already fighting there, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in mission failure.”
The White House confirmed Monday, Sept. 21 that the president has seen the general’s report but has not received a formal request for more forces.
In the 66-page assessment he sent to defense secretary Robert Gates on Aug. 30, Gen. McChrystal said 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.”
Therefore, according to debkafile‘s Washington sources, if President Barack Obama fails to approve the manpower increment and revised tactics the general is demanding, he might as well start working on an early withdrawal strategy and accept the curtailment of the conflict dubbed “Obama’s War” to distinguish it from “Bush’s War” in Iraq.
The general, who took over his command two months ago, lists half a dozen reasons for his blunt assessment:
1. The insurgents control a significant portion of the country. Our sources report a Taliban presence in central, eastern and northern Afghanistan.
2. Increased strength alone will not defeat the Taliban. Both American and other countries need to reassess their war strategy, misconceived from the 2001 invasion. NATO forces should spend as “little time as possible in armored vehicles or behind the walls of forward operating bases.” They need to focus on engaging and destroying to Taliban to ensure the Afghanistan population feels safe and secure.
3. “Muddled NATO tactics” and corruption in high places in Kabul leave Afghans “reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.”
4. Corruption has spread to the Afghan army and other security forces ranks. There is a crisis of confidence among Afghans, both in their government and the international community, which “undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents.”
5. US and its NATO partners “do not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, powerbrokers and criminals all combine to affect the Afghan population,” says the US general.
His central conclusion is that failure to add troops “…risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs and, ultimately, a critical loss of political support.”
Already now, about 58 percent of Americans oppose the Afghan war compared with 38 percent who support it – a trend reflected in Obama’s Democratic Party and some Republicans. The McChrystal report was leaked on the day Italy laid six soldiers killed in Afghanistan to rest, prompting Rome’s decision to withdraw the Italian contingent from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
In the UK, support for the war has declined steeply.
Obama faces two hard options: Boost the US military in Afghanistan by tens of thousands of additional US troops, or else engage the Taliban insurgents in negotiations for a timetable for NATO forces to exit the country.
The second course presents the major hazards of Kabul’s reversion to Taliban rule coupled with an assault on the stability of the Pakistani government. They would combined to generate a slump in US positions in Southwest Asia.
Secondly, the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq in the same 2010-2013 timeframe – during which Iran will follow North Korea in acquiring nuclear weapons – will look to the Middle East and Europe like the crackup of US positions in key world arenas.
President Obama might dodge both dim prospects, according to debkafile‘s military experts, by pulling US troops out of Afghanistan while keeping them close: A ring of US special bases would be installed in neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, or Kyrgyzstan, poised for rapid in-and-out strikes against any strongholds al Qaeda might rebuild in Afghanistan under the wing of a radical Kabul regime.