Gen. McChrystal Assesses the Situation in Afghanistan

On Aug. 30, Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted a formal report to the Pentagon which assesses the situation in Afghanistan and describes the problems facing coalition forces there.  President Obama is now reviewing the 66-page document from the top American military commander in Afghanistan before making a decision about further troop deployments, which Gen. McChrystal says are necessary to avoid failure. 

Gen. McChystal is expected to issue another report soon requesting at least 10,000 more troops, and possibly an additional 45,000.  President Obama has already increased troop levels to 68,000.  That figure could increase by nearly 70 percent if Gen. McChrystal asks for 45,000 more soldiers and Marines and the president approves the request.

President Obama has not officially decided what he will do.

During a recent interview, the president said “Whatever decisions I make are going to be based first on a strategy to keep us safe, then we’ll figure out how to resource it.  We’re not going to put the cart before the horse and just think that by sending more troops we’re automatically going to make Americans safe.”

President Obama is facing pressure from Congressional Democrats to reduce the American presence in Afghanistan.  But if he refuses Gen. McChrystal’s request for more troops he will be accused by Republicans and others of not providing the military with the resources it needs to be successful. 

Gen. McChrystal may ask NATO allies to contribute more troops, but European members of the alliance are unlikely to send more soldiers because public opinion in most European countries is strongly against the war effort in Afghanistan.

Gen. McChrystal’s report touches on other issues besides troop levels. 

He says “The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by officials have given Afghans little reason to support their government.”

Correcting such problems will be almost impossible for outside forces like NATO and the US because they cannot force Afghan officials to be less corrupt.  Widespread disaffection with the Afghan government will likely continue, especially in the wake of major election fraud allegations against Hamid Karzai, who claimed victory in the recent presidential election.  But the army is still respected by the Afghan people, a fact which offers some hope to coalition forces that are trying to train enough Afghans so that they can eventually take over responsibility for securing their own country.  However, Afghan security forces still lack sufficient resources and logistical support, which is absurd given how much money and effort the US and its allies have been expending in Afghanistan.

Gen. McChrystal also notes that Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners are radicalizing other inmates in Afghan detention facilities.  The militants comprise more than 15 percent of detainees in Afghanistan’s prisons.  Clearly, American and Afghan officials should attempt to separate insurgents from other prisoners to prevent the latter from being recruited as fighters.

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