Monday, September 28, 2009

Top commander wants U.S. to figure out what it wants to do in Afghanistan

Well, it certainly is nice to hear some common sense now and again. We're speaking, of course, of Sunday's broadcast of an interview with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who has urged U.S. President Barack Obama to commit tens of thousands more soldiers to battle to stabilize the country and defeat the Taliban, according to Cable News Network (CNN). McChrystal said the key to winning in Afghanistan is gaining the support of ordinary Aghanis, many of whom have turned against the United States and its allies over what they see as indiscriminate bombings and high civilian casualties. "The greatest risk is . . . to lose the support of the people here," McChrystal said on the CBS show "60 Minutes," CNN said. "If the people are against us, we cannot be successful," McChrystal said. "If the people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can't be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically." The United States has supplied 60 percent of the combined force of nearly 100,000 soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. U.S. and allied forces were dispatched to Afghanistan after determining that the radical Islamic group al-Qaida was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Al-Qaida was under the protection of another radical Islamic group, the Taliban, which was then in control of Afghanistan. The troops drove the Taliban from power but were unable to locate al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden despite years of searching. Obama has called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" and has authorized 21,000 additional soldiers to be sent there to battle a resurgent Taliban, but he has started a process of re-evaluating the U.S. engagement. McChrystal is expected to ask for as many as 70,000 more troops when he makes recommendations to the president in the coming weeks. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN on Sunday that Obama could turn down his generals' requests for more troops, as urged by some Democratic Party leaders in Congress. "The reality is, do we need additional forces. How many forces? And to do what?" Gates told CNN. "It's the 'to do what' that I think we need to make sure we have confidence, we understand, before making recommendations to the president." What's that? The administration is still figuring out the "to do what" in Afghanistan? Yes, it certainly would be nice to know what the troops are fighting and dying for in Afghanistan before risking any more lives -- ours and theirs.

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