U.S. commander pleads for more troops in classified report

A report from the new US and NATO commander in Afghanistan says there is an urgent need for more foreign troops and civilians, more Afghan forces and a new strategic approach to reverse Taliban gains.

General Stanley A. McChrystal

General Stanley A. McChrystal

The assessment by US Army General Stanley McChrystal is still officially secret, but the Washington Post published an unclassified version on Monday, which it says has only a few deletions requested by the government.

In the document, the general, who arrived in Afghanistan in June, says “success is not ensured by additional forces alone, but continued under-resourcing will likely cause failure.”

He writes that the US and NATO effort has long been “under-resourced,” and that must change within 12 months or the coalition “risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” He says a lack of even the “minimum” resources is “a recipe for failure” in a counterinsurgency,” and the Taliban and related groups have made significant gains in recent years as a result.

The report says that “failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term [next year] — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

General McChrystal says while the Afghan government and military “must ultimately defeat the insurgency,” the coalition can not wait for the Afghans to be capable enough to do the job alone.

Although the Washington Post published most of the document on its website, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to discuss its details, calling it “pre-decisional” and “classified.”

On the president’s aircraft Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that while the general may want more troops, he does not expect a formal request for a little while. “We are going to conduct that strategic assessment and do that in a way that lays out the best path forward before we make resource decisions, rather than having this go the other way around where one makes resources decisions and then finds a strategy,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said any decision on troop levels will wait until the conclusion of a broader assessment of the way forward in Afghanistan, of which he indicated General McChrystal’s document is only one part.

In the document, the general was critical of NATO forces, saying that they are “poorly configured” to fight an insurgency. He says if NATO countries continue to be “pre-occupied” with protecting their forces rather than protecting the people and accomplishing the mission, they “run the risk of strategic defeat.” He says the coalition must operate “dramatically differently — even uncomfortably differently.”

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