KABUL: The US and NATO commander in Afghanistan Monday called for a revised strategy to defeat the Taliban and reverse the “serious” situation as he submitted his review in the eight-year war.
General Stanley McChrystal’s review, compiled since he took up command in mid-June, has been widely anticipated under US President Barack Obama’s sweeping new strategy putting Afghanistan at the heart of his foreign policy.
The United States has for months called for new thinking in Afghanistan to counter record numbers of attacks since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime and the Pentagon dismissed McChrystal’s predecessor last May.
McChrystal sent his strategic assessment to the head of US Central Command General David Petraeus for comment en route to the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the military said.
“The situation in Afghanistan is serious but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,” said McChrystal in a statement.
It said his assessment seeks to implement Obama’s strategy “to reduce the capability and will of the insurgents, Al-Qaeda and transnational extremists” as well as develop Afghan forces and improve governance and development.
Already 2009 has become the deadliest year for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime and implanted a new government, and August has been the deadliest month for US troops here.
McChrystal has not called for more boots on the ground in this review, but a second analysis, due to be presented to Obama in late September, was likely to call for more frontline troops, a foreign diplomat in Kabul said.
McChrystal would call for a “deepening partnership” with other nations engaged in Afghanistan as the United States currently bears two-thirds of the military and civilian burden, he said on condition of anonymity.
The military commitment was likely to be rebalanced over the coming three to five years, he said, gradually moving from frontline engagement to training of Afghan security forces.
The White House said Monday it expected any Pentagon request for more troops to fight in Afghanistan “in the coming weeks” as it awaited McChrystal’s review.
“This report is an assessment of what, in his assessment, needs to change. Any specific resource recommendations, I’m told, will be made in the coming weeks, but are not a part of this report,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
But Gibbs warned Obama’s new strategy will take time.
“This was underresourced, underfunded, undermanned and ignored for years. And that’s not going to change overnight,” he told reporters in remarks aimed at Obama predecessor George W. Bush.
Military leaders in Afghanistan have said the gradual shift in emphasis from frontline foreign engagement to training of local army and police and development would allow a drawing down of international troops.
This would conform to McChrystal’s theory of counter-insurgency, outlined to troops in a seven-page document released last week.
McChrystal ordered the more than 100,000 Western troops under his command to change their mindset to win the fight against insurgents, who have become more virulent and deadly since stepped up NATO-led operations in recent months.
“It’s not about gaining ground, it’s about gaining the population,” the foreign diplomat said, reflecting the core of McChrystal’s vision.
Meanwhile, Gates Monday pledged more equipment and surveillance support to help protect against deadly roadside bombs.
“We are in the process of putting significant additional surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities” in Afghanistan, Gates told reporters after visiting a Lockheed-Martin plant in Texas.
US military commanders in Afghanistan reportedly told the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, this month that they did not have enough troops to do their job.
Obama ordered an extra 21,000 troops to Afghanistan earlier this year and there are around 62,000 American forces now in the country.
Elections held on August 20 as part of Western-led efforts to put war-torn, impoverished and corrupt Afghanistan on the path to democracy were overshadowed by poor turnout and fraud, thanks to a systematic Taliban campaign.