Archive for the ‘Kandahar’ Category

For Obama, Three Afghanistan Tests

March 28, 2009

Three time bombs are buried within the new and ambitious strategy for Afghanistan that President Obama unveiled Friday. Their detonation — which would cripple the international mission to stabilize the country and perhaps cripple Obama’s presidency — is not inevitable. But defusing them will take an exceptional performance by U.S. military commanders and diplomats, some skillful politicking by the president — and maybe a little of the unexpected good fortune that blessed the U.S. surge in Iraq.

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post

The first fuse is burning down toward Aug. 20, less than five months from now. On that day, Afghanistan is due to hold a presidential election whose outcome and perceived fairness may determine whether most Afghans continue to view U.S. and NATO forces as friendly. By then, too, the 17,000 additional Marines and Army troops authorized by Obama last month should be deployed in the two southern Afghan provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban is strongest, along with scores of new American civilian advisers.

This first test is twofold: Can the new U.S. forces clear the enemy from the large areas near the border with Pakistan where they now rule with near impunity — something that inevitably will mean a spike in violence — without appearing to use disproportionate force? And will Afghans be secure enough to cast ballots in an election in which they will be offered alternatives to incumbent President Hamid Karzai, with the assurance that their votes will be fairly counted?

U.S. commanders are pretty confident they can pass the military test, in part because for the first time in the seven-year war they can mass enough forces to overwhelm the Taliban without heavy reliance on air power, which causes 60 percent of civilian casualties. The election will be trickier. Karzai’s government is perceived as feckless and corrupt by much of the Afghan population, and his relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in the past year. Yet, in part because of a lack of strong challengers, he appears likely to win reelection. If the vote seems rigged, or if Karzai wins a new mandate without offering a credible promise of improvement, Afghans may irrevocably sour both on the central government and its foreign sponsors.

“This election has to be viewed as free and fair,” said one U.S. military officer in Kabul. “And there has to be some discussion of corruption by Karzai so that in the first 100 days after the election there can be some visible action taken.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/
AR2009032702293.html?hpid=o
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Read also Peter Bergen of the New York Times on why the historic record for Afghanistan does not have to predict the future…
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/
03/28/opinion/28bergen.html?_r=1

U.S. Defense Secretary In Afghanistan, Promises More Troops

December 11, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday that the Pentagon, which plans to send 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, was trying to get thousands of the additional combat forces into the country as soon as next summer, a sign of the seriousness of the threat facing the United States against the Taliban.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates listens during a meeting ... 
Mr. Gates.
REUTERS/Scott Olson/Pool (AFGHANISTAN)

The soldiers were requested by Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. The first of them, about 3,500 to 4,000 troops from the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., are scheduled to arrive next month.

Mr. Gates said he hoped to deploy an additional two combat brigades in Afghanistan by the summer as part of an effort to combat growing violence and chaos in the country. He declined to name the specific units. Pentagon officials have said it would take 12 to 18 months overall to get all 20,000 American troops to Afghanistan.

The reinforcements will increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan to about 58,000 from the current level of 34,000. Mr. Gates said that the planned drawdown of some soldiers from Iraq in January had enabled the military to begin sending additional forces to Afghanistan.

By Elisabeth Bumiller 
The New York Times

Mr. Gates made his remarks to reporters on his plane en route to Kandahar, where he arrived on Thursday to meet with General McKiernan. Later in the day, Mr. Gates is to answer questions from American forces in Kandahar at a town-hall-style meeting, his first experience with such a format.

President-elect Barack Obama vowed repeatedly during the campaign to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, which he declared the central front in the war against terrorism. His call for more troops here was consistent with the views of top commanders, although Mr. Gates, who is staying on as Mr. Obama’s Defense Secretary, made clear that the new administration’s military policy in Afghanistan is far from settled.

“But I have not heard anybody talking about forces beyond those that General McKiernan has already requested,” said Mr. Gates, who has been in recent conversations with Mr. Obama and in meetings with the president-elect’s transition team. “And I think that’s a discussion that the new administration will have as we look to the future.”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/world/middle
east/12gates.html?_r=1&hp