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US commander calls for revised military strategy

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-01

The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has delivered a strategic review, describing the eight-year-old war as in a serious state but saying success could be achieved with a revised strategy to turn around the fight against the Taliban.

REUTERS - The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan delivered a long-awaited strategic review on Monday, describing the 8-year-old war as in a serious state, but saying success could be achieved with a revised strategy.


Officials gave no indication in public as to whether U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, who commands a record-sized force of more than 100,000 troops, would ask for still more reinforcements to carry out his new strategy.


The review is expected to spell out a completely revised approach to conducting the war, which Barack Obama considers the main foreign policy priority of his young U.S. presidency.


“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,” McChrystal said in a statement announcing the review was ready.


McChrystal has been working on the review since Obama put him in charge of the war in June.


His review, sent to the U.S. military’s Central Command (CentCom) responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to NATO headquarters in Brussels, is not expected to make firm recommendations about future troop strength just yet.


However, military officials say it will form the basis for a decision about force size which could be taken within weeks -- a politically fraught calculation that could mark a turning point in the Obama presidency.


The report comes at a time when Afghanistan is stuck in political limbo, with the outcome as yet unclear from a presidential election on Aug. 20. Authorities were due later on Monday to issue fresh results.


Incomplete results so far show President Hamid Karzai leading, but not by enough to avoid a second-round run-off against his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who accuses the authorities of widespread fraud.


ADJUSTED FOCUS


McChrystal now commands 103,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 63,000 Americans, more than half of whom arrived this year as part of an escalation strategy begun under outgoing President George W. Bush and ramped up under Obama.


The existing force is set to rise to 110,000, including 68,000 Americans, by the end of this year.


Since taking command, McChrystal has adjusted the focus of Western forces from hunting down insurgents to trying to protect the Afghan population, borrowing in part from U.S. tactics in Iraq developed under CentCom commander General David Petraeus.


His review is expected to suggest concentrating forces in more heavily populated areas, and also stepping up efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police.


Speculation has swirled about whether McChrystal will conclude he needs still more troops, or whether U.S. commanders and political leaders will agree to allow a further escalation.


The additional U.S. forces that have arrived so far have pushed out into formerly Taliban-held territory, especially over the past two months. Along with British troops, they have been taking by far the heaviest casualties of the war.


This year has already become the deadliest for foreign forces of the war. More Western troops have died in Afghanistan since March than in the entire period from 2001-2004.
 

Date created : 2009-09-01

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