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AP Photos/Erik de Castro/Pool

Will More American Troops Be Deployed to Afghanistan?

September 21, 2009 03:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s urgent plea for troop reinforcements in Afghanistan has stirred debate over the already unpopular campaign.

Looking for a New Strategy in Afghanistan

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently sent a 66-page document to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stating that without troop reinforcements and a “genuine counterinsurgency strategy,” within the next year, the Afghanistan campaign “will likely result in failure,” Bob Woodward reports for The Washington Post.

McChrystal’s dire prediction for the future of the Afghanistan campaign is rooted in the strength of the Taliban forces, which he describes as a “muscular and sophisticated enemy,” according to Woodward. “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)—while Afghan security capacity matures—risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible,” the Post quotes McChrystal as saying.

Opinion & Analysis: How to tackle a “political problem”?

Although an increase in troops could help McChrystal to temporarily curb the development of Taliban insurgency schemes, there is nothing soldiers can do to “solve the cancerous government corruption, nor the woeful state of rural development [in Afghanistan],” Jerome Starkey reports for The Times of London.

The unpopularity of the current Afghanistan government has been the driving force for the Taliban insurgency, driving citizens to lose faith in their leaders. “The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's [NATO’s International Security Assistance Force] own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,” the Times reports, quoting McChrystal’s assessment.

Political blogger Andrew Sullivan agrees with this evaluation, and suggests that “this is a political problem at its heart.” Though he commends McChrystal for the “candor and seriousness” of his assessment, Sullivan isn’t optimistic about the situation. “[W]e are left with this dire set of alternatives. We either pack up and go home. Or we double-down for a couple of decades to try to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, knowing that, even then, we cannot prevent any single Jihadist plot or attack coming from that region,” he explains in his blog The Daily Dish.

The suggestions in McChrystal’s report, currently being reviewed by President Obama, could stoke a national debate over whether more American troops should be committed to the already unpopular Afghanistan conflict. According to a declaration made by Obama, however, he won’t make a decision regarding reinforcements until he has “absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be,” The Washington Post explains.

Background: McChrystal revises military strategy in Afghanistan

In August, McChrystal issued a revision of the current American military strategy in Afghanistan in order to create a plan meant primarily to protect the Afghan people against the Taliban.

Although the report didn’t explicitly call for additional troops, McChrystal explained that an increased engagement with Taliban fighters would be very helpful, and that “60% of the problem would go away if they could be found jobs,” the BBC reported. American soldiers are also stepping up efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police, but it could take years for the poorly trained Afghan forces to take the lead in the defense against the Taliban.

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