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McChrystal urges closer ties with Afghans
Question of the Day
Concerns have risen in the United States about sending more Americans to support a government that is widely viewed as corrupt and inefficient.
Stephen Biddle, a military specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations who helped devise the surge strategy in Iraq and was among the civilian advisers on Afghanistan, said the Afghan government must reduce corruption and deliver more services.
“The degree of improvement we need is that the Afghan government has to be perceived as superior to the Taliban,” Mr. Biddle said. “Nobody can guarantee success,” he said. He called the surge “a high difficulty dive” but added, “I don’t think it’s hopeless.”
Two military planners told The Times that the military assessment included unprecedented civilian participation, incorporating the advice of the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other governmental bodies. The result is a greater emphasis on coordination between military and civilian surges and a focus on governance equal to that on security.
“Security operations will now focus on supporting governance [as opposed to just targeting insurgents],” said Lt. Col. Shaun O’Connor, a military planner from New Zealand. “There’s greater opportunity for governance in [eastern Afghanistan], so a lot more effort will be expended in terms of governance and development. The international community will have to contribute more money in that vein.”
Civilians teams of three or four people from USAID, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Department are expected to arrive as early as October and embed within the military in high-risk districts.
“I think they’re looking for different perspectives because the situation is highly unique,” said Matt Sherman, civilian political adviser to the U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.
Another official familiar with the assessment said many of its themes had been presaged in a set of guidelines Gen. McChrystal published last week.
The guidance told U.S. troops to focus 95 percent of their time and energy on protecting and building relationships with the Afghan people. “Earn the support of the people and the war is won,” wrote Gen. McChrystal, “regardless of how many militants are killed or captured.”
He said the supply of insurgent fighters is “effectively endless,” and that the conventional military response to insurgent attacks was like that of “the bull that repeatedly charges a matador’s cape — only to tire and eventually be defeated by a much weaker opponent.”
On Sunday, Gen. McChrystal issued a directive requiring all coalition personnel to “drive in ways that respect the safety and well-being of the Afghan people.”
Gen. McChrystal also will review the use of small tribal security forces in areas where other Afghan and international forces haven’t been able to defeat the Taliban, specifically in the southern and eastern regions of the country.
“The thing we have to watch is community-based security,” said one of the unnamed U.S. military officials. “Call it what you will: Tribal, village or community patrols are important. … I think the preference would be for a professional army and Afghan police corps.”
He said tribal security forces supported by the U.S. are interim measures and “have to be closely monitored because they are not as professional and accountable to the central government and can therefore approach the kind of warlordism that would further alienate the population.”
The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has relied on support from powerful ethnic warlords to pacify parts of the country and help him win re-election. Mr. Karzai is leading in the vote tally for the Aug. 20 elections but has not achieved the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff with top challenger Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister.
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