Surge will 'reverse' Taliban momentum: US commander



WASHINGTON, Dan De Luce - The NATO commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday predicted a surge of US troops will reverse the momentum of Taliban insurgents within a year and ensure their ultimate defeat.
The additional 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama will reverse insurgent momentum "by this time next year" and cut off the Taliban from the population, General Stanley McChrystal, head of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, told US lawmakers.



General Stanley McChrystal
General Stanley McChrystal
The general, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, said that "by the summer of 2011, it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win, giving them the chance to side with their government."
McChrystal, who stands at the center of a renewed push in the Afghan war, said he was confident of success because the Taliban remained unpopular and that Afghans did not see foreign troops as occupiers but as a "necessary bridge to future security and stability."
The Taliban "are not a national liberation front that people inside are just waiting for their success," the general said. "They succeed largely on their coercion."
McChrystal presented a united front at the hearing with US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, despite public clashes between the two over war strategy that had played out in leaked newspaper reports.
Obama's plan combines a troop buildup with a target date of July 2011 for the start of a gradual US withdrawal, a provision that has drawn criticism from Republicans who say it plays into the hands of the enemy.
A new survey released Tuesday showed American public support for the war rose sharply since Obama presented his plan last week. Backing for the mission jumped nine points to 57-35 percent in favor, according to the Quinnipiac University poll.
McChrystal told lawmakers he did not propose the target date for the start of a withdrawal but said setting a timeline for a handover to Afghans posed no problem from a "military standpoint."
He added that the insurgents could try to misrepresent the date for propaganda purposes.
Obama's promise to begin withdrawing troops in mid-2011 has sparked concern in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan that the Taliban could sit out the surge and attack a pared down force in 18 months' time.
Despite his optimistic forecast, McChrystal warned that coalition forces faced "a complex and resilient insurgency" and that the most difficult task would be improving the credibility of local and national government.
Pressed by lawmakers, the general said he was satisfied with the reinforcements approved by Obama as well as 7,000 troops promised by NATO allies and said he did not expect to ask for more forces within a year.
The testimony comes a week after Obama announced the deployment of additional forces, a risky decision with many of the president's fellow Democrats increasingly anxious about the costly eight-year-old war.
A contingent of 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will begin arriving next week in the southern Helmand province as a first step in the troop buildup.
Appearing together before lawmakers, both McChrystal and Eikenberry sought to play down their differences over the war.
Eikenberry, a retired general and former commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged he had questioned the size of a planned troop surge but said he supported the final decision.
"It was not a question of additional troops. It was the question as we all had about the number of troops," he said.
During the policy debate, Eikenberry said he had concerns about the timeline for the troop deployments and "what would be the context that those troops would operate in."
He said he was now "unequivocally" in support of the mission.
Top military officer Admiral Mike Mullen meanwhile said the argument was in the past and that the president's team was unified.
"I think the published part of what has occurred is over. And there was -- and I was very much in this -- a very intense, heated debate about how to proceed forward," Mullen told reporters.
During the White House debate, Eikenberry reportedly wrote cables saying corruption in the Afghan government had to be addressed first before a big troop surge.
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Tuesday, December 8th 2009
Dan De Luce
           


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