U.S. commander: Afghan strategy needs change
The 8-year-old war in Afghanistan can still be won, but only with a revised strategy, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces said on Monday, announcing the conclusion of a long-awaited review that could see him seek more troops.
Officials gave no indication in public as to whether U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, who commands a force of more than 100,000 troops, would ask for still more reinforcements to carry out his new strategy.
The review is expected to spell out a completely revised approach to conducting the war, which Barack Obama considers the main foreign policy priority of his young U.S. presidency.
"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 announcing the review was ready.
McChrystal has been working on the review since Obama put him in charge of the war in June. He sent the classified document to the U.S. military's Central Command (CentCom) responsible for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Military officials say it contains no firm targets for troop strength, but it could form the basis for a decision within weeks on future deployments -- a politically fraught calculation that could mark a turning point in Obama's presidency.
The report comes at a time when Afghanistan is stuck in political limbo, with the outcome as yet unclear from a presidential election on August 20. Authorities were due later on Monday to issue fresh results.
The 103,000 troops under McChrystal's command in Afghanistan, include 63,000 Americans, more than half of whom arrived this year as part of an escalation strategy begun under outgoing President George W. Bush and ramped up under Obama. The force is set to rise to 110,000 including 68,000 Americans by year's end.
Since taking command, McChrystal has adjusted the focus of Western forces from hunting down insurgents to trying to protect the Afghan population, borrowing in part from U.S. tactics in Iraq developed under CentCom commander General David Petraeus.
His review is expected to suggest concentrating forces in more heavily populated areas, and also stepping up efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police.
Speculation has swirled about whether McChrystal will conclude he needs still more troops, or whether U.S. commanders and political leaders would give them to him if he does.
The additional U.S. forces that have arrived so far have pushed out into formerly Taliban-held territory. Along with British troops, they have been taking by far the heaviest casualties of the war over the past two months.
Missing from the article, at some point the mission in Afghanistan switched from tiny forces assisting locals in fighting Taliban to yet another nation building, despite some experts claiming this would be a disaster, doesn't fit the terrain nor the primitive population of Afghanistan (even more primitive than Iraqis).