American Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal admitted Wednesday “the Taliban had made significant gains in Afghanistan over the past two years” and warned “casualties will likely increase” as troop numbers are ramped up.
As the new top commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal will be setting the tone as “a veteran of covert operations in Iraq who is considered an unconventional warrior and tough commander.” McChrystal is foresees “tough combat, mounting casualties and a long, hard counterinsurgency to defeat the Taliban.”
Air strikes, which have proven to be indiscriminate and deadly to civilian populations, will continue. Lt.-Gen. McChrystal attempted to legitimize their continued use with the promise the strikes would occur “under even tighter control.” With record levels of airstrikes being deployed and a corresponding level of civilian deaths, it is not unexpected such tactics have “fomented bitter resentment among ordinary Afghans against foreign troops.”
More resources and more commitments are needed, said McChrystal, leaving one to wonder how this will impact Canada’s decision to remove its troops from combat by 2011.
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Afghan casualties to rise, new U.S. commander says
War ‘is winnable,’ but not ‘easily winnable,’ says general who will command all foreign forces
Washington — Globe and Mail Update, Wednesday, Jun. 03, 2009 10:45AM EDT
America’s new top general in Afghanistan, picked by President Barack Obama to reshape a stalemated war, warned Tuesday of tough combat, mounting casualties and a long, hard counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the Taliban.
Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, a veteran of covert operations in Iraq who is considered an unconventional warrior and tough commander, admitted the Taliban had made significant gains in Afghanistan over the past two years.
The war “is winnable, but I don’t think it will be easily winnable,” he said. “Counterinsurgency is difficult business and demands resources, courage and commitment over time.”
He made no mention of the fact that several key allies – including Canada and Holland, two of the few committed to combat – have announced they will pull out of military operations during the next two years whether the conflict is over or not.
At Senate hearings to confirm his nomination, the general who will command all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, including Canada’s troops, warned that “casualties will likely increase” as more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops pour into the Taliban heartlands in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
“I expect stiff fighting ahead,” he said.
More than 60 U.S. soldiers have been killed already this year in Afghanistan, and last year, NATO and U.S. combat deaths soared to the highest level since the 2001 war that toppled the Taliban. But Afghan civilian deaths, mainly caused by allied warplanes dropping bombs at the behest of beleaguered ground troops, also reached record levels and fomented bitter resentment among ordinary Afghans against foreign troops.
Air strikes will continue, Gen. McChrystal said, but under even tighter controls.
Keenly aware of the risks of further alienating an already impoverished and war-weary population that increasingly regards President Hamid Karzai’s government as a corrupt regime propped up for foreigners, Gen. McChrystal stressed that the measure of whether the war is being won “will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.”
The general, tapped by Mr. Obama as part of his shift in strategy to make the Afghan war his top priority, was widely credited for creating the hunter-killer units that eviscerated the leadership of the Iraqi insurgency. His promotion to overall command of what will soon be more than 100,000 U.S. and allied foreign forces in Afghanistan is expected to signal a more aggressive, and not just military, effort to defeat the Taliban.
Tuesday, he was quizzed by senators about allegations that troops under his command mistreated detainees in Iraq. The general said some criminal abuse had been prosecuted, and added, “I do not and never have condoned mistreatment of detainees, and never will.”
He was asked to outline objectives for Mr. Obama’s new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, which treats both countries as separate parts of a single overall campaign against Islamist-inspired terrorism.
The aim in Pakistan, said the general “would be a reduction or hopefully a complete elimination of al-Qaeda” while in Afghanistan it would be to make the Taliban irrelevant, rather than attempting to defeat them militarily.
“If defeating an insurgent formation produces popular resentment, the victory is hollow and unsustainable,” he said.