US commander says it's time to take battle to Taliban
McChrystal follows Obama's West Point speech with pledge to better use Afghan troops and convince Taliban they can't win
US and Nato forces will move quickly to engage the Taliban with "greater vigour" following the unveiling of President Barack Obama's revamped Afghanistan strategy, the senior American commander in the country has said.
"Now is the time to go for it," General Stanley McChrystal told his senior commanders during a briefing at his Kabul headquarters this morning.
He said his aim was "to convince Taliban militants they cannot win" and allow them to reintegrate into Afghan society with "dignity and respect".
McChrystal said US and Nato forces will move rapidly to implement nationwide partnerships with Afghan security forces as part of a drive to fight the Taliban insurgency.
The general stressed that the 43-nation UN-backed alliance's most important challenge was to persuade the Afghan people that winning the war would make a lasting, positive difference to their lives.
"In the end the outcome of this campaign will be decided in the minds of the Afghan people. It's not the number of people you kill, it's the number you convince," he said.
"This is not a war for conquest, this is not a war for glory, this is not a war for profit. It's a war to give people a chance."
McChrystal made his comments in a video conference with regional Isaf (International Security and Assistance Force) commanders hours after Obama announced he was authorising a speedy deployment of 30,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan while at the same time setting a timeline for the start of a withdrawal of American forces of July, 2011.
Obama also called for a more effective civilian strategy, including outreach to local and tribal leaders in an effort to improve government accountability and boost economic prosperity in one of the world's poorest countries.
His call was accompanied by a blunt warning to the central government of President Hamid Karzai, which is widely seen here as corrupt and incompetent, that its performance over the next 18 months would be closely monitored. "The days of the blank cheque are over," Obama said.
Speaking to reporters after the video-conference and prior to a tour of Isaf bases, McChrystal said he planned to partner American and Nato forces with "fielded" Afghan army units across the country in the next six to eight months. Additional resources would also be poured into training and mentoring the Afghan army, whose overall size is due to grow to 134,000 by next year.
"Our Afghan partners need the support of coalition forces while we grow and develop the capacity of the Afghan army and police. That will be the main focus of our campaign in the months ahead."
McChrystal drew a distinction between al-Qaida terrorists operating in Afghanistan, who he said were few in number and largely limited to non-combat support roles, and insurgents such as the Taliban. "What we are actually going to do is degrade al-Qaida and prevent them being a threat and build up Afghan national security forces so they can deal with it effectively and so they will need less help.
"We can significantly impact Taliban capacity in the timeframe of 18 months. We need to convince them … that [the insurgency] is a losing proposition."
Taliban numbers and support had risen "significantly" in recent years, McChrystal said. But he was convinced that given better employment opportunities, higher incomes, a better quality of life, and improved and lawful governance, "the vast majority" could be persuaded to give up violence.
"Sometimes the insurgency seems insurmountable. It isn't," he said. The alliance needed to show Taliban fighters that it was not solely a choice of "fight or die … This is how counter-insurgencies end."
While declining to go into specifics, McChrystal said many of the extra 30,000 US troops would be deployed in "the most threatened areas", an apparent reference to Kandahar and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan and Khost in the east, bordering Pakistan.
But he added that a large proportion of the US and Nato reinforcements would be assigned to training newly recruited Afghan forces, including increased "embedding" of such forces with allied units.
McChrystal reportedly annoyed the White House this year when he spoke in London about a stepped-up, long-term military commitment, while Obama's Afghan strategy review was still underway. He is also said to have differed sharply with Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, over the scale of troop reinforcements.
Asked whether he fully backed Obama's revamped approach, McChrystal said he was "absolutely supportive of the time line" and denied the nature of the mission had been changed by Obama's speech at West Point. The president had brought new clarity to the task, increased capability, and placed a welcome emphasis on competence, both American and Afghan.
"The president has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish the task … The coalition is encouraged by President Obama's commitment."
But, McChrystal noted: "The 18-month timeline is not an absolute. It's not as though everybody leaves [at that date]". The US had pledged itself to a long-term commitment, though its nature would change as and when insurgent violence declined.
Despite discouraging signals from Germany and France about sending extra troops, McChrystal said he expected all Nato members "to look at what they can do to expand their capabilities" in Afghanistan.
He was cautious about Gordon Brown's proposal last week that five provinces be ready to be turned over to Afghan control by the end of next year. Some trouble-free areas were already effectively under local control already, McChrystal said. Handing over in more problematic areas was "a process that we want to move forward" – but only, he suggested, when the time was right.
McChrystal said he was looking at ways of increasing co-operation with Pakistani forces fighting Taliban groups on the other side of the border and said he had a good relationship with Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani.
NATO Looking to Send More Troops to Afghanistan
PARIS — As political and military leaders across the globe pondered the import of President Obama’s announcement of his Afghan strategy, the NATO secretary general said Wednesday he believed other members of the alliance would make a “substantial” increase in their commitments to the 43-nation coalition fighting the Taliban.
The official, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he anticipated “at least 5,000 more forces from other countries in our alliance and possibly a few thousand more” to bolster NATO’s current contingent of around 42,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. The figure fell short of American hopes, voiced by officials before the president’s speech, that the NATO allies would contribute up to 8,000 additional soldiers.
But in a formal statement from NATO headquarters, Mr. Rasmussen spoke only of “a substantial increase” in the contribution by NATO allies.
France and Germany immediately ruled out an immediate commitment of more ground forces. But Poland was reported to be considering increasing its contingent by 600 soldiers from its current level of 2,000, Reuters reported, and a Spanish newspaper said Spain might increase its deployment by 200 soldiers to 1,200. Britain pledged to press other allies to boost their contingents.
Apart from NATO’s response to the president’s plan to send around 30,000 more American soldiers, officials in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan were examining the implications on their countries, both of them gripped by intertwined Taliban insurgencies.
In Kabul, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said that despite some tough language in President Obama’s speech and an outline for a drawdown of troops starting in 18 months, the president “sharply stated his commitment to Afghanistan.”
Mr. Spanta said he was not worried about Washington’s target of 18 months for Afghan security forces to take responsibility for security. “I personally believe it must go faster. We must take up the burden and I am not alone in thinking this,” he said. He was speaking after signing an agreement with the American ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry, to open the first United States consulate in Afghanistan in the relatively peaceful northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The opposition leader, Abdullah Abdullah, who pulled out of the presidential election in November accusing President Hamid Karzai of widespread fraud, welcomed the extra troops.
“Unfortunately, we should not need more troops after eight years but we do,” Dr. Abdullah said in comments relayed by an aide. He cast doubt on the likely ability of the Afghan government to assume control in two to three years. “That cannot be guaranteed by anyone, that’s the question mark,” he said.
Across a long and mountainous border in Pakistan, distrust of American intentions runs deep, partly because the United States abandoned the region after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, and there is widespread fear in the security establishment of a repetition of those events.
Newspapers, anticipating the speech, struck a skeptical tone. The News, a daily, acknowledged in an editorial that Mr. Obama was trying to change the substance of American-Pakistani relations, but that the trust deficit was so deep that “it is unlikely that Islamabad will be more attentive to an apparently war-weary U.S. and NATO than it was to a fire-breathing Bush administration eight years ago.”
An editorial in The Nation, a nationalist daily strongly critical of the United States, struck a more strident tone: “The time has come for Pakistan to demand rather than to continue giving in to U.S. interests.”
Mr. Rasmussen, the NATO secretary general, did not say where he expected additional coalition forces to come from. Britain, the second biggest contributor after the United States, has promised to add 500 to its 9,0000-strong Afghan deployment. But other allies have been more reticent. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that Britain would “continue to play its full part in persuading other countries to offer troops to the Afghanistan campaign.”
With more than 2,800 soldiers on the ground — and a relatively high casualty rate among them — Canada welcomed Mr. Obama’s decision, with Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon saying the “additional U.S. resources will help to provide a more secure environment for the Afghan people,” Reuters reported.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday night “courageous, determined and lucid, giving new impetus to the international commitment” but he did not commit to adding to France’s nearly 3,750 troops now in the war zone.
“France expects clear commitments from Afghan authorities, in answer to the strong commitments of the international community, on policy, economic and social development and on fighting drug trafficking,” he said.
But the foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said in a radio interview that France had increased its force levels in September and, in its area of operations, “our zone doesn’t need a troop increase. Our area is well taken care of.”
But he did not rule out further adjustment, referring to an international conference on Afghanistan set to take place in London in late January. “We will see how to adjust things then.”
Germany, too, is awaiting the gathering in London to decide whether to increase the size of its contingent. “We hear the wishes of the United States, but we will not decide in the coming days. We will decide only after the Afghanistan conference.”
Several German newspapers have reported that Washington is pressing for up to 2,500 more German soldiers. Germany, the third largest contributor in the alliance with 4,300 troops on the ground, is currently debating a one-year renewal of a parliamentary mandate for the deployment which sets a maximum level of 4,500 troops.
An increase would need fresh parliamentary approval.
In a statement issued in Kabul on Wednesday Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the president’s review of Afghan strategy had “provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task.”
General McChrystal had sought up to 40,000 American reinforcements in addition to the 68,000 already there.
“We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow. In the meantime, our Afghan partners need the support of coalition forces while we grow and develop the capacity of the Afghan Army and police. That will be the main focus of our campaign in the months ahead,” he said.
“We face many challenges in Afghanistan, but our efforts are sustained by one unassailable reality: neither the Afghan people nor the international community want Afghanistan to remain a sanctuary for terror and violence. The coalition is encouraged by President Obama’s commitment and we remain resolute to empowering the Afghan people to reject the insurgency and build their own future.”
After meeting with President Karzai in Kabul Wednesday, General McChrystal said the Afghan leader was “very upbeat, very resolute this morning.”
Apart from the political and military consequences of the American strategy, others in the region are looking for an economic component in Washington’s involvement.
In a letter this month to Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Obama extended an offer of expanded, long-term cooperation, including helping Pakistan address “immediate energy, water, and related economic crisis.”
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” said a Pakistani official. “We have to solve it together.”
“The speech creates a window of opportunity,” said Feisal Naqvi, a lawyer in Lahore. “But the partnership has to have some visible aid component.” The United States government, he said, “has to woo the people of Pakistan.”
Afghanistan's Karzai supports US troop surge -McChrystal
KABUL, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai supports U.S. President Barack Obama's order to send in 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the top U.S. and NATO commander said on Wednesday after meeting Karzai in Kabul.
The Afghan leader also emphasised the need to explain the troop increase to his people, General Stanley McChrystal said.
"It was really positive. The president was very upbeat, very resolute this morning," McChrystal told reporters in Kabul.
Not for the tl;dr crowd.
Now let's see what wankage this post causes.