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Thread: More U.S. troops needed for Afghan war: top officer

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    Default More U.S. troops needed for Afghan war: top officer



    More U.S. troops needed for Afghan war: top officer - Yahoo! News

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Even more U.S. troops will likely be needed in Afghanistan beyond the 68,000 who will have deployed there by the end of this year, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.
    Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not estimate how many more troops would be needed but said he expected a request for more resources from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan in a couple of weeks.
    Mullen said he felt a sense of urgency about the war but also pleaded for patience as skepticism about it grows among members of Congress, especially in President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, and the American public.
    "A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces," Mullen told the U.S. Senate's armed services committee.
    "We can get there. We can accomplish the mission we've been assigned," he said.
    "But we will need resources matched to the strategy, civilian expertise matched to military capabilities, and the continued support of the American people."
    In Kabul, the head of a U.N.-backed watchdog that monitored last month's Afghan elections said on Tuesday a partial recount ordered to prevent voter fraud will cover more than 10 percent of polling stations.
    That means that enough votes are likely to be subjected to the fraud investigation to potentially alter the outcome, prolonging uncertainty over the result for weeks or months.
    The preliminary results give President Hamid Karzai a majority of 54.3 percent, but the U.N. watchdog has already annulled votes from dozens of polling stations and can discard even more.
    GROWING AMERICAN DISAPPROVAL
    Fifty-eight percent of Americans now oppose the Afghan war while 39 percent support it, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll released on Monday.
    Obama himself acknowledged that continued public support for the mission was important but rejected comparisons between Afghanistan and the deeply divisive Vietnam War.
    "Afghanistan is not Vietnam," he said in an interview with CNBC television and the New York Times published on Tuesday.
    "But the dangers of overreach and not having clear goals and not having strong support from the American people, those are all issues that I think about all the time," Obama said.
    The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had not yet come to a conclusion on whether more troops were needed.
    "The secretary's thinking on this is a work in progress," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
    The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has almost doubled this year from 32,000 to 62,000 and is expected to grow by another 6,000 by the year's end. There are also some 38,000 troops from other nations, mainly NATO allies.
    Insurgent violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the Taliban was ousted from power in late 2001. Adding to the country's difficulties are allegations of fraud surrounding last month's Afghan presidential election.
    Grant Kippen, the Canadian, U.N.-appointed head of watchdog the Electoral Complaints Commission, which has the power to veto the election result, told Reuters 2,516 polling stations were subject to a recount order his commission issued last week.
    Opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, said that if a result is delayed into next year, he wants a transitional government led by neither himself nor Karzai.
    DEBATE SNAPSHOT
    Abdullah says ballot stuffing took place on a large scale, especially in southern areas where the reported result overwhelmingly favors Karzai.
    Karzai's lead is big enough that fraud would have to be uncovered on a huge scale to force another round.
    The Senate hearing to consider Mullen's nomination for a second term as the top U.S. military officer and military adviser to the president -- which is expected to be approved -- offered a snapshot of the current debate over Afghanistan.
    The committee chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, took the opportunity to restate his proposal not to send more combat troops for now and instead focus on training and expanding Afghan security forces.
    Senator John McCain, the panel's ranking Republican, strongly rejected the idea, saying it resembled the failed U.S. policy of relying too soon on local forces in Iraq.
    "With all due respect, Senator Levin, I've seen that movie before," McCain said.
    Mullen pushed back more subtly against Levin's proposal, saying a greater focus on Afghan forces was needed but could only be part of the solution in Afghanistan.
    "Sending more trainers more quickly will give us a jump start -- but only that. Quality training takes time and patience," he said.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Very interesting piece.

    Also, while it's being ignored by the US media- but not by the British thank god, Obama is planning to send thousands of troops back into northern Iraq near Mosul and Kirkuk, according to General Odierno. The Times of London has had some pieces on it.
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    change you can believe in
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    My friend just got word last week, he is going...after being told he wouldnt be and he and his wife decided to have another baby. He will be gone a minimum of 6 months, non combat supposedly, he is in artcitectural design in the Air Force, currently stationed at central command at Mcdill. Now she is going to Wisconsin to be with her family. They are NOT happy at all. Plenty more in their situation
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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cupcake View Post
    My friend just got word last week, he is going...after being told he wouldnt be and he and his wife decided to have another baby. He will be gone a minimum of 6 months, non combat supposedly, he is in artcitectural design in the Air Force, currently stationed at central command at Mcdill. Now she is going to Wisconsin to be with her family. They are NOT happy at all. Plenty more in their situation
    Wow.

    I'm not trying to sound too negative or worrisome but it seems like it's hard to differentiate between combat and non combat in the Iraq/Afghanistan theater. There is danger is many places.

    My friend got back from there a month ago. He was combat advisor to the Afghan national army, saw quite a bit of combat as you can imagine when you accompany forces to see how they deal in patrols, etc., and making contact with the enemy.

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    True! I dont think you are safe anywhere there. Wish they could all be home
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    Thought this was an interesting piece:
    Kerry Opens Vigorous Debate on Afghanistan

    Contrasts With Politically Driven Iraq War Hearings

    By Spencer Ackerman 9/16/09 7:14 PM

    Most congressional hearings bring administration officials up for a grilling. Others present interest group-backed pseudo-experts to give canned analysis. Rarely do congressional hearings present eclectic analysts who address a given policy option from a first-principle perspective to an engaged group of lawmakers. Yet that’s exactly what happened Wednesday afternoon when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began what chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) described as a series of hearings about the war in Afghanistan.

    Kerry assembled three experts to scrutinize the core issues at the heart of the war and the alternatives proposed to wage it: John Nagl, the president of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that has provided significant personnel and intellectual heft to the Obama administration; Steve Biddle, an influential security expert with the Council on Foreign Relations who advised Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent review of Afghanistan strategy; and Rory Stewart, head of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, who wrote a widely read travelogue of his journeys through Afghanistan. Intellectual cleavages over both strategy and basic views of the war were apparent on the panel, with Nagl and Biddle supporting a more robustly resourced war with broader aims than Stewart endorsed. But both Nagl and Biddle grappled with the harder implications of such positions, with Nagl emphasizing the primacy of competent Afghan, not U.S., security forces, and Biddle equivocating on the overall importance of Afghanistan to U.S. interests.

    This week, President Obama is expected to approve McChrystal’s strategy review, and McChrystal is expected to finalize a palette of options for resourcing the war, including the prospect of U.S. troop increases. Amid rapidly eroding public support for the war, one of the larger concerns roiling lawmakers is whether the counterinsurgency strategy fulsomely embraced by the administration is sufficiently tied to the administration’s stated objectives of eradicating al-Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan and preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan. Kerry asked if this week’s successful commando raid in Somalia against an important al-Qaeda-linked figure — launched from offshore bases and requiring no on-land troop presence — might be a model for an alternative strategy.

    “Sir, it tells us you can conduct counterterrorism with a light footprint, not counterinsurgency,” Nagl replied. Kerry was unsatisfied with the answer: “That’s exactly my point,” he said. Nagl parried that the presence of neighboring Pakistan was the crucial difference, as the absence of U.S. forces would contribute to the destabilization of Afghanistan’s neighbor, while their presence inspired Pakistani resolve. “I am convinced that American counterinsurgency and counterterrorism in Afghanistan have contributed to the more effective Pakistani counterinsurgency campaign” of the spring, when Pakistani troops finally evicted Taliban insurgents from the Swat valley.

    Stewart disagreed, contending that the United States tended to underestimate Afghan and Pakistani will to make decisions in their own interests and overestimated the impact of Afghanistan to Pakistani stability. “It’s very dangerous to mount an argument about Afghanistan based on Pakistan,” he said, comparing weak, poor Afghanistan to a cat and nuclear-armed Pakistan to a tiger. “We’re beating the cat,” Stewart continued, “and when you say, ‘Why are you beating the cat?’ you say, ‘It’s a cat-tiger strategy.’ But you’re beating the cat because you don’t know what to do about the tiger.”

    A better strategy, Stewart argued, would be to use special forces to “identify a narrow group of people called al-Qaeda and then eliminate them.”

    Later in the hearing, Biddle addressed some of the problems with the so-called “offshore” option, whereby U.S. forces launch the occasional raid, mostly from the skies or with special forces, on selected al-Qaeda targets, dissenting from Stewart’s prescriptions. “Safe havens do not [offer al-Qaeda] real estate for construction of tent farms for training seminars,” he said, but instead they protect al-Qaeda from “human-intelligence penetration on the ground,” upon which such targeted counterterrorism strikes depend. With regard to the drone strikes in Pakistan against al-Qaeda — which the CIA claims has seriously eroded al-Qaeda’s freedom of movement in the tribal areas and which some counterinsurgents fear will ultimately alienate Pakistanis — “control of the government underneath the drones” was an additional prerequisite for success, Biddle said. Take away human intelligence and host-government complicity through an offshoring strategy, and counterterrorism would be a non-starter.

    Nagl, an Iraq war veteran and longtime advocate of prosecuting counterinsurgency largely through the cultivation of partner military forces, was agnostic in his remarks about whether to send additional U.S. combat forces to Afghanistan. Instead he advocated, as Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has proposed, an accelerated deployment of Afghan security forces, and proposed increasing the dedicated U.S. force for training Afghan forces from 4000 to 10,000. Since the U.S. method of training counterinsurgent forces involves mentoring in combat, not academic settings, “No one should think because we’re sending over trainers that we’re not putting them in harm’s way,” Nagl cautioned.

    All three panelists agreed on the need to distinguish among what McChrystal has called the “Taliban-led syndicate” of insurgent groups, particularly the small core that fights for ideological conviction and those who fight for more transactional reasons, like money or status. Most insurgents in Afghanistan “are not particularly interested in international terrorism,” Stewart said, and the “small proportion who are don’t have the resources to carry out whatever ambition [is] in their fantasies.”

    But Biddle and Nagl responded that such distinctions could not drive splits within the Taliban absent more aggressive fighting and sustained U.S. and Afghan governmental commitment. So-called reconciliation efforts could be successful only “if the military tide begins to turn and perceptions of long-term trajectory” are on the side of the Afghan government, Biddle said. And if the U.S. couldn’t protect defectors from the Taliban coalition from reprisal, “It’s very difficult to convince a ten-dollar Taliban to side with us.”

    It was difficult to read the impact the testimony had on the assembled senators. Most, including Kerry, posed skeptical questions to all panelists, indicating a more open debate than the congressional debate over the Iraq war, which often devolved into questioning designed to elicit politically-useful responses. Kerry, for instance, has described the struggle against al-Qaeda as a “global counterinsurgency,” yet he aimed most of his more pointed questions at Nagl, who mostly agrees with that analysis.

    Kerry said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had agreed to testify before the panel next month, after President Obama made a decision on whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan. Another hearing, on how to avoid failure in Afghanistan, is scheduled for Thursday morning, when the panel will hear from ret. Gen. Bantz Craddock, the former NATO commander; development expert Clare Lockhart; novelist Khaled Hosseini; and Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan.
    The Washington Independent » Kerry Opens Vigorous Debate on Afghanistan

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