'Failure' in Afghanistan likely without more troops - McChrystal

A confidential assessment of the war in Afghanistan is going to test the resolve of President Obama to do what it takes to avoid catastrophe.

General Stanley McChrystal's 66 page report is calling for more troops or the US faces "failure" of the mission in the next 12 months.

Bob Woodward of the Washington Post reports:

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.

McChrystal concludes the document's five-page Commander's Summary on a note of muted optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."

But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians.

He provides extensive new details about the Taliban insurgency, which he calls a muscular and sophisticated enemy that uses modern propaganda and systematically reaches into Afghanistan's prisons to recruit members and even plan operations.

A sizable majority of his own party rejects the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan with more and more of them calling for complete withdrawal. We will now see if the president - who has countenanced his allies calling Republicans many unflattering names over the last few months - is big enough to reach across the aisle and forge a coalition of the willing in Congress to do what is necessary to avoid defeat.

In one of those delicious political ironies, Obama must call on his opponents to help him prosecute the war and win through to some kind of victory.

There is much more in the McChrystal assessment that bears scrutiny. The corruption of President Karzai's government is endemic. And the situation eerily reflects the conditions that led to the rise of the Taliban in the first place. When they ruled in Afghanistan, the Taliban were not exactly paragons of virtue but they were a far sight better than what they replaced. When people have lost faith in government's ability to provide for them fairly, it makes them ripe for the kind of message being promoted by the enemy. This, and the seeming disregard for civilian casualties in NATO Drone and air attacks is sapping support of the populace for our troops and the government we are propping up.

I am afraid that Obama will largely ignore McChrystal's recommendations, stand by while the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan deteriorates, and then decide to withdraw. It is what his party wants and, as is typical, he will probably point to his predecessor and blame him.

Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will once again have a base of operations where they can plan to slaughter us while further working to undermine the government of Pakistan - a nation with more than 70 nuclear weapons.

A little less straddling and a little more action if you please, Mr. President.

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