US general calls for new strategy against Taliban

Author: AP

Increasing U.S. forces is a hot-button issue that could ignite furious debate
in Washington on the U.S. military’s future in an increasingly unpopular
war. Some Democratic senators have increased calls for a timeline to draw
down troops.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent his strategic review of the Afghan war to the
Pentagon and NATO headquarters on Monday. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates ordered the 60-day review to size up the rapidly deteriorating
security situation in Afghanistan as Taliban attacks rise and U.S. deaths
spiral upward.

“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 Monday.

A NATO statement said McChrystal’s assessment seeks to implement President
Barack Obama’s strategy “to reduce the capability and will” of insurgents
and extremists, including al-Qaida, and support the growth and development
of Afghan security forces and Afghan governance.

McChrystal did not ask for more troops but is expected to do so in a separate
request, two NATO officials said on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to speak on the matter.

The U.S. already has some 62,000 troops in Afghanistan ? a record number ? and
will have 68,000 by the end of the year. In total there are more than
100,000 U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

The deaths of two U.S. forces Monday in the south ? the country’s most violent
region ? underscored the spiraling violence those troops face. The deaths
brought to 47 the number of U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan in August ?
the deadliest month of the almost-eight year war for American troops.

Thousands of U.S. forces moved into the Afghan south this summer after Obama
ordered 21,000 more troops to the country this year, forces who helped
protect the country’s Aug. 20 presidential election. McChrystal, who took
over command in Afghanistan on June 15, delayed the release of the review so
that it would not interfere with the vote.

New vote tallies released Monday showed President Hamid Karzai with a strong
lead over top challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai had 45.8 percent of votes
counted, while Abdullah had 33.2 percent. Ballots have been counted from
almost half of the country’s voting stations, meaning results could still
change dramatically. Karzai will need 50 percent of the votes to avoid a
two-man runoff.

Hundreds of allegations of fraud and voter intimidation threaten to mar the
election, and female turnout was low. Voters who cast ballots faced
retaliatory attacks from militants who told Afghans not to vote. Results are
not expected to be finalized until mid- or late September, after officials
work through the fraud allegations.

In an example of the extreme threats that voters faced, an Afghan man said
Monday that Taliban militants cut off his nose and both ears as he tried to
vote.

“I was on my way to a polling station when Taliban stopped me and searched me.
They found my voter registration card,” Lal Mohammad said from a hospital
bed in Kabul. He said they cut off his nose and ears before beating him
unconscious with a weapon.

“I regret that I went to vote,” Mohammad said, crying and trying to hide his
disfigured face. “What is the benefit of voting to me?”

The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan hinges on increasing the number of Afghan
soldiers and police so U.S. forces can one day withdraw. Some 134,000 Afghan
troops are to be trained by late 2011, but U.S. officials say that number
will need to be greatly increased, an expansion that will be paid for by
U.S. funds.

Afghanistan has long been seen as the “good” war by many in the United States,
especially in comparison with U.S. efforts in Iraq, where U.S. troops are
now drawing down. But some Democratic senators are beginning to question
whether U.S. goals in Afghanistan are achievable, and when U.S. troops will
be brought home.

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