General Stanley McChrystal of the US Army, who heads the coalition force in Afghanistan, has submitted the first strategic assessment on Afghanistan on August 31. According to a blog run by Major Paul Smyth of the British Army, the assessment is directed by US Secretary of Defense and NATO Secretary General. The assessment includes socio-economic development and improvements in governance as well as military operations (“ISAF Commander Submits Assessment”; Helmand Blog-Afghanistan; August 31, 2009).
As mentioned in the above video, things in Afghanistan are quite tough, and the Taliban is still strong.
In the assessment, General McChrystal said the war on the ground was serious but told confidently it was winnable. The report recommends that the coalition forces deploy more troops in Kandahar province in the east and Khost Province in the south. The number of troop levels for the further surge will be stated in the next assessment later this month. A couple of senior defense officials say 40,000 additional troops will be required (“General Seeks Shift in Afghan Strategy”; Wall Street Journal; September 1. 2009).
The problem is, a recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that the approval rate for the Afghan War has dropped dramatically, and 51% of those who replied the questionnaire say that the war is not worth fighting, while 47 of them believe it worth fighting. Paradoxically, liberals are critical of President Barack Obama to increase the troop level (“Public Opinion in U.S. Turns against Afghan War”; Washington Post; August 20, 2009).
The legitimacy of August 20 election result is vital for success in the Afghan War. The opposition presidential candidate Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah blames some fraud in favor of current President Hamid Karzai. The Electoral Complaints Commission deals with their complaints. Though Karzai is likely to win the election, substantial areas in Afghanistan are out of government control. General McChrystal understands political consensus is no less important than tactical success (“McChrystal ball”; Economist; September 1, 2009).
Nevertheless, Stanley McChrystal foresees some hope for victory. Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues why the Afghan War is winnable.
Unlike widely believed understanding, current Afghanistan is completely different from that invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979. Politically, Afghanistan was about to fall into civil wars even without Soviet invasion. In addition, the Red Army was so heavy arm dependent against NATO forces that it was ill-equipped with counter insurgency battles (“We're Not the Soviets in Afghanistan”; Daily Standard; August 21, 2009). Kagan also says that no other strategists understand the nature of counter insurgency operations better than Stanley McChrystal (“Ask the Man Who Knows”; Daily Standard; September 8, 2009).
The key to the victory is how people react to the next strategic assessment by General McChrystal. The Obama administration is based on war-reluctant liberals. If his recommendation for surge spurs vehement criticism to the war itself, things will be deadlocked. Will President Obama overcome their opposition as Former President Bush did on Iraq?