Monday, August 31, 2009

Gen. McCrystal can't win the war!!

By Peter Graff

KABUL (Reuters) - The 8-year-old war in Afghanistan can still be won, but only with a revised strategy, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces said on Monday, announcing the conclusion of a long-awaited review that could see him seek more troops.

Officials gave no indication in public as to whether U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, who commands a 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. He sent the classified document to the U.S. military's Central Command (CentCom) responsible for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Military officials say it contains no firm targets for troop strength, but it could form the basis for a decision within weeks on future deployments -- a politically fraught calculation that could mark a turning point in Obama's 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 August 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.

Returns have yet to be tallied from many areas, including much of the south, where Karzai commands strong support among his fellow Pashtuns but turnout was hurt by Taliban threats of violence and accusations of fraud are most widespread.

An independent fraud watchdog, the Election Complaints Commission, is investigating nearly 2,500 allegations of abuse, including 567 it says are serious enough to affect the outcome.

Western officials initially hailed the election as a success because Taliban fighters failed to scupper it, but as fraud charges mount those assessments have become more cautious.

In a particularly moving account of election day violence, Lal Mohammad, a 40 year-old farmer, told reporters in a hospital in Kabul on Monday that he had been attacked while heading to vote by fighters who cut off his ears and parts of his nose.

The 103,000 troops under McChrystal's command in Afghanistan, include 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 force is set to rise to 110,000 including 68,000 Americans by year's end.