US ‘needs new Afghan strategy’

Top general says situation “serious but success is achievable”.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the Afghan capital, Kabul, said a lot of the focus of the assessment of how US, Nato and Afghan forces operate on the ground would be on the Afghan security forces.

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Reports indicate McChrystal wants the Afghan army and police force – now totalling more than 160,000 – to be nearly doubled to more than 300,000, our correspondent said.

The review comes amid news that August was the worst month on record for US fatalities in Afghanistan.

The death of a US soldier in the east of the country last week pushed the toll for the month to 45, making August the deadliest month for US forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion toppled the Taliban government.

Two British soldiers were also killed on Monday by an explosion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, raising British fatalities in Afghanistan to 210 since 2001.

The rise in casualties since Barack Obama, the US president, ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year is likely to lead to further questioning of the war in the US and among other nations which have contributed to the Nato-led force in the country.

But our correspondent said it was unlikely that a specific request for more international forces had been included in the review.

At least 302 foreign troops have been killed
in Afghanistan so far this year [GALLO/GETTY]

“What happens is that he [McChrystal] puts in the strategic review and then there is another process – called the ‘troop-to-task’ process – which takes place after this assessment to decide if there should be more American and international troops,” he said.

“I know that one of his plans is to look at the amount of the troops he currently has in the country and work out what all of them are doing.

“I think that the general would like to see more of the troops who are here moved to frontline fighting positions.”

The website, which compiles and publishes statistics of the dead in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, says that 302 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, up from 294 in the whole of 2008.

Lacking credibility

McChrystal’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan coincides with a comment by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, that the US military’s biggest problem is the lack of credibility.

Writing in the latest issue of the Joint Force Quarterly publication, Mullen said: “Our messages lack credibility because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises.

External link

Full text of Admiral Mike Mullen’s commentary

“We hurt ourselves more when our words don’t align with our actions… We must be vigilant about holding ourselves accountable to higher standards of conduct and closing any gaps, real or perceived, between what we say about ourselves and what we do to back it up.

“I also hope we learn to be more humble, to listen more. Because what we are after in the end – or should be after – are actions that speak for themselves, that speak for us. What we need more than anything is credibility.”

McChrystal’s report was supposed to have been submitted on August 12, a week before the August 20 Afghan election, but concerns that it could be misperceived and made into a political issue and affect the polls delayed it until Monday.

The final count from the election is not yet in but the latest partial results released on Monday by Afghanistan’s election commission kept Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president, in the lead.

He still is, however, without the outright majority needed to avoid a second round run-off.

With results from nearly 48 per cent of the vote released, Karzai now has 45 per cent of the vote. While Abdullah Abdullah, his former foreign minister and nearest rival, has 33 per cent.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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