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U.S., NATO must change to win Afghan war-commander
Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:37pm EDT
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By Peter Graff and Andrew Gray
KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies must change strategy and boost cooperation to turn around the war in Afghanistan, the top U.S. and NATO commander there said on Monday, wrapping up a much-anticipated review.
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal said the situation was "serious" but the 8-year-old war could still be won. He gave no indication as to whether he would ask for more troops but is widely expected to do so in the coming weeks.
With U.S. and NATO casualties at record levels in Afghanistan and doubts growing about the war in the United States and other NATO nations, McChrystal is under pressure to reverse Western fortunes within months.
"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 his report was done.
The confidential report comes as Afghans anxiously await the outcome of their August 20 presidential election.
New, partial results released on Monday showed President Hamid Karzai maintaining a lead over his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, but still without the outright majority needed to avoid a second-round run-off.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said any recommendation for more forces would have to address his concerns that the foreign military presence in Afghanistan could become too large and be seen by Afghans as a hostile occupying force.
"Clearly, I want to address those issues and we will have to look at the availability of forces, we'll have to look at costs. There are a lot of different things that we'll have to look at," he told reporters.
"While there's a lot of gloom and doom going around ... I think we have some assets in place and some developments that hold promise," Gates said on a visit to a Lockheed Martin factory building F-35 fighter jets in Fort Worth, Texas.
McChrystal has 103,000 troops under his command, including 63,000 Americans, half of whom arrived this year as part of an escalation strategy begun under George W. Bush and ramped up under President Barack Obama. The Western force is set to rise to 110,000 including 68,000 Americans by year's end.
TROOP INCREASE DIFFICULT
A further increase could be politically difficult for Obama, with members of his Democratic party increasingly uneasy about the war and Congressional elections due next year.
The White House sought on Monday to pin the blame for the grave state of the war in Afghanistan on the Bush administration, which made Iraq its top military priority.
"This was underresourced, underfunded, undermanned and ignored for years," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
"The president is focused on ensuring that we meet measurable benchmarks... It's going to take some doing." Continued...
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