Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stabilizing Afghanistan may take at least four years, McChrystal says

WASHINGTON — The week before a major presidential speech on Afghanistan strategy, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told lawmakers touring the combat zone that it could take at least four years to stabilize the country and allow the drawdown of U.S. forces.

The top coalition commander in Afghanistan gave the estimate to a delegation of six lawmakers during a private assessment in Kabul of military conditions in the country.

It foreshadows some of the difficulties of the case that President Barack Obama will have to make to the American public from West Point on Tuesday, when he is expected to call for a significant new troop commitment and outline an exit strategy in the 8-year-old war.

By 2013, the United States military will have been in Afghanistan for as long as American soldiers fought in Vietnam.

"I asked [McChrystal], where’s the tipping point here? If you get the troops that you’re asking for here, at what point will we begin to phase down that presence?" said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who was part of the delegation. "He said sometime before 2013."

McChrystal’s estimate is likely to prove unpopular with lawmakers already bristling at the idea of upping the ante in Afghanistan at the cost of urgent priorities at home.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the White House that there is little support among many Democrats for a troop increase and the tens of billions it would cost.

Traveling with a group of Democrats and Republicans, among them Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., Coffman said he left the country feeling less confident than when he arrived in the strategy that McChrystal has outlined over the last two months.

An expert in counterinsurgency, McChrystal has requested a new blanket of troops to protect Afghan civilians and win their support from the Taliban while shoring up efforts to train a larger Afghan military that can eventually take control.

Progress on that training is lagging, the lawmakers were told by U.S. military officials, partly because of the difficulty of imposing a modern military structure on the country’s traditional tribal culture.

Coffman said he pressed McChrystal and others on the possibility of more aggressively arming local militias who could fight the Taliban, especially in rural areas.

"They said the Karzai government isn’t excited about us giving weapons to some of these tribal militias," said Coffman, who noted that such a strategy proved a turning point in Iraq. "But I said the Maliki government [in Iraq] wasn’t excited when [U.S. Gen. David] Petraeus did that to the Sunni Arab insurgents."

Coffman said that he and other Republicans are eventually likely to support a troop increase but that the GOP support is less wholehearted than many analysts have speculated.

"I think it’s going to be a tough fight in the Congress," he said.

Star Telegram


Blogger Mister Ghost said...

When has Afghanistan been stable? LOL

12:17 PM  
Blogger madtom said...

Prior stability is not necessarily a prerequisite to future stability.

Europe was very unstable, they caused two world wars, I could be wrong but I think the twentieth century saw 500 million casualties?? don't hold me to that number. All because of them backward fucking Euro weenies.

7:38 PM  

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