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McChrystal in the bull ring
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[QUOTE="QC, post: 57916, member: 150"] [url]http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14376264[/url] Sep 3rd 2009 | KABUL From The Economist print edition [B]NATO is running out of time in Afghanistan[/B] CALL it the “Matador Doctrine”: a beast charges pointlessly at the bullfighter’s cape, exhausting itself and suffering endless small wounds, until it succumbs to a weaker opponent. Stanley McChrystal, NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, says his troops have been acting like a powerful but stupid bull lunging after insurgents; without a change of tactics NATO may yet have its ears cut off by the Taliban. After nearly eight years of war, the allies’ weariness is showing. The latest opinion polls say the American public is gloomy about the fight in Afghanistan and increasingly resistant to sending more troops there. Parts of the Democratic Party, in particular, are hostile to the war and the White House is nervous. General McChrystal knows he has little time to turn things around. On August 31st he submitted his long-awaited review to NATO leaders, saying “the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable.” The assessment is confidential (and bleak, it is said) but the commander’s priorities are known, not least from a directive to his troops of five days earlier containing the bull-and-matador simile. They are: protect the Afghan population rather than kill or capture insurgents; build up Afghan forces; boost the legitimacy of the government in Kabul and improve the co-ordination of civilian aid. The Taliban and the Western-backed Afghan government are fighting for the allegiance of the Afghan people, says the general; the people will decide who wins. Such ideas have been American orthodoxy on counter-insurgency for nearly three years, adopted successfully in Iraq and less successfully by previous commanders in Afghanistan. General McChrystal’s directive on the need for units to drive vehicles courteously is little different from the order issued by his sacked predecessor, General David McKiernan, and posted at NATO bases: “We can’t win if you drive recklessly.” But if the theory is the same, the implementation may be different. General McChrystal has already sharply reduced the frequency of air strikes even as Western military casualties are at their highest since the fall of the Taliban. His report emphasises the “reintegration” of Taliban fighters—don’t call it “reconciliation”—to try to draw away as many as possible of those who fight for money or tribal honour rather than for religious ideology. The general wants much closer “partnering” of Western troops with Afghan forces, from common headquarters to joint platoons. He calls for the accelerated training of Afghan forces, to nearly 220,000 soldiers and policemen by the end of next year, with the option of nearly doubling that number to 400,000 if, as is likely, security conditions do not improve. This week a Taliban suicide bomber killed the Afghan deputy intelligence chief, Abdullah Laghmani, and more than 20 others. General McChrystal has not openly said what his entourage agrees on: to protect the population, NATO will need more troops than the 110,000 it will have by the end of the year after the reinforcements ordered by Barack Obama. A request for more may come in a second report later this month and will depend not just on military calculations, but on two political ones: will Afghans see a bigger NATO presence as an occupying force? Will voters in the West agree to sink more blood and treasure in the Hindu Kush? On both counts the task would be greatly eased if the Afghan leader, President Hamid Karzai, were not so damaged by the ineffectiveness and corruption of his government. Last month’s presidential election was a chance to relaunch his leadership. But the claims of widespread ballot-rigging are tainting him further. Afghan officials have been flooded with more than 2,000 complaints of fraud. Mr Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has presented evidence of forged ballots, coercion and other irregularities. He urges his supporters to stay calm, but says he will accept neither defeat nor a unity government. On September 2nd, with over 60% of stations reporting results, Mr Karzai had 47.3% of the vote against 32.6% for Mr Abdallah. This excludes most votes in the turbulent south, which diplomats think will carry Mr Karzai over the 50% mark to avoid a run-off. The president would no doubt then reward former warlords who supported him with jobs and spoils. Western officials seem glumly reconciled to another term for Mr Karzai. General McChrystal’s directive tells soldiers to “confront self-serving officials who monopolise wealth and power and abuse people’s trust”. Easier said than done. [/QUOTE]
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McChrystal in the bull ring