x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

US commander pushes for more troops in Afghanistan

In a leaked report, Gen McChrystal warns that the war 'will likely result in failure' unless more forces can be provided in the coming months. He believes that government corruption poses as great a threat as the insurgency. 'The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,' McChrystal says.

In what has the appearance of a fait accompli, a confidential report by the top US and Nato commander of forces in Afghanistan has been leaked to The Washington Post. The report warns that the war "will likely result in failure" unless more forces can be provided in the coming months. Gen Stanley McChrystal repeatedly warns, the Post reported: "that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians. "He provides extensive new details about the Taliban insurgency, which he calls a muscular and sophisticated enemy that uses modern propaganda and systematically reaches into Afghanistan's prisons to recruit members and even plan operations... "The assessment offers an unsparing critique of the failings of the Afghan government, contending that official corruption is as much of a threat as the insurgency to the mission of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the US-led Nato coalition is widely known. " 'The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,' McChrystal says. "The result has been a 'crisis of confidence among Afghans,' he writes. 'Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.' " The National, reporting from the district of Nika is in the south-eastern province of Paktika, said: "News of Gen McChrystal's report will be a sobering moment for the people of Nika, however, who say the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from their homeland cannot come quickly enough. "Mr Khan, aged 55, claims he was briefly detained by US troops earlier this year and describes the experience as 'even worse than dying'. He believes that there can never be stability while there is continued outside interference. " 'If we Afghans don't build the country, if we don't sit together and make it our country, then others cannot. Not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Pakistanis, none of them can build this country,' he said. " 'We don't want other people in Afghanistan. They don't bring peace,' he said." The Washington Post said: "Instead of debating whether to give McChrystal... more troops, the discussion in the White House is now focused on whether, after eight years of war, the United States should vastly expand counterinsurgency efforts along the lines he has proposed - which involve an intensive programme to improve security and governance in key population centers - or whether it should begin shifting its approach away from such initiatives and simply target leaders of terrorist groups who try to return to Afghanistan. "McChrystal's assessment, in the view of two senior administration officials, is just 'one input' in the White House's decision-making process. The president, another senior administration official said, 'has embarked on a very, very serious review of all options.' The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations." In Time magazine, Joe Klein said: "What's provocative about the report is that it was leaked to [Bob] Woodward - a serious breach of conduct by someone, possibly in the military (or a supporter the military's position). This was an effort to lobby a quick decision on troop strength - which the military wants, so that it can begin planning the 2010 fighting season in Afghanistan. But a quick decision is not a good idea right now. "The president needs to know what the next Afghan governmnet is going to look like - will there be a runoff between Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah? If Karzai still manages to score more than 50 per cent after the phony ballots are tossed, will Abdullah and other Karzai opponents endorse the Karzai government? What sort of moves will Karzai make to restore some confidence in his government? Are the Canadians going to stay in Kandarhar Province, are the British going to stay in Helmand? Are the Dutch and Australians going to stay in Uruzgan?" In an analysis for the Associated Press, Robert Burns said: "The McChrystal assessment puts to the test Obama's assertion just six months ago that he would put the war effort on a path to success by providing what the previous White House didn't. " 'For six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq,' Obama said March 27. 'Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.' He approved the dispatch of 21,000 more US troops and promised a comprehensive improvement in the US effort to stabilise the country, train its security forces and advance justice and economic opportunity. "Obama also said then that he would reevaluate after the Afghan presidential election, which was held August 20. The charges of widespread fraud and ballot-rigging that emerged after the election have only added to doubts in Washington about whether the Afghan government can be counted on as a reliable partner. "The president thus far has not endorsed the McChrystal approach, saying in television interviews over the weekend that he needs to be convinced that sending more troops would make Americans safer from al Qa'eda. Tellingly, Obama reiterated in those interviews that his core goal is to destroy al Qa'eda, which is not present in significant numbers in Afghanistan. He did not focus on saving Afghanistan." William Maley, Marvin G Weinbaum and Rani D Mullen, in Foreign Policy said: "This week, the most senior US official working with the United Nations in Afghanistan went on 'leave' out of frustration over the lack of response to fraud in the country's presidential election. The head of the European Union's election-monitoring commission said that as many as one-third of the votes President Hamid Karzai received were 'suspect' and should be investigated. And Afghans themselves continue to criticise not just the controversial election, but also the government's response to it. If this continues, it will fatally undermine the next Afghan government and the efforts of its international supporters. Steps should be taken immediately to avert a potentially violent legitimacy crisis. "We observed Afghanistan's August 20 presidential and provincial council elections in Kabul. Among us we have almost seven decades of experience in following Afghan politics, and we feel thoroughly alarmed by the lack of consensus on how to resolve the brewing crisis over the disputed elections. It is by now clear that there took place an industrial-scale effort to distort the election results and defraud the Afghan people. Should this effort succeed, the chance of the Barack Obama administration's stabilising Afghanistan and the broader region will be grim indeed. No one should be in any doubt as to the gravity and explosiveness of the situation."

pwoodward@thenational.ae