Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Round & round they go.....how to undo their blunders, they will never know.

Change of Tactics Needed in Afghanistan War, Chief of NATO Says

Viola Gienger Viola Gienger – Tue Sep 29, 12:01 am ET

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said nations waging the war in Afghanistan must change their tactics and promote successes or risk losing public support there and at home.

“Reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed,” Rasmussen told an audience at the Atlantic Council policy group in Washington yesterday. More troops will be needed at least to train the Afghan National Security Forces, Rasmussen said, while cautioning that a revised strategy must be agreed upon before decisions are made about the additional resources.

“We cannot continue to do exactly what we’re doing now,” Rasmussen said, calling for more focus on civilian reconstruction to accompany the military campaign. “Things are going to have to change.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization leads the 41-nation military campaign in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime shielded al-Qaeda before being ousted by the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The U.S. has 65,000 troops in the country, with the remainder of the 103,000-strong foreign force contributed by NATO members and other allies.

President Barack Obama is reviewing whether to continue with a strategy in Afghanistan that focuses on protecting and supporting the population against al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Rasmussen, 56, a former prime minister of Denmark, met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday and is scheduled to meet today with Obama at the White House.

Assessment Delivered

The top commander in the war, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, recently submitted an assessment of the security situation in the country that recommends even more emphasis on protecting the population to make room for the country’s development. He concluded he would need more forces to carry out the strategy than the 68,000 the U.S. expects to have in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Leaders of the nations fighting in Afghanistan must speak out more about the successes achieved in the eight years of the war to win back public support, Rasmussen said.

He cited 7 million Afghan students in school, one-third of them girls, and that millions of citizens were able to vote in the nation’s presidential election last month in the face of threats from the Taliban.

Fraud Allegations

The election results remain in dispute because of fraud allegations. Rasmussen said he agreed that the NATO-led alliance needs a “credible and legitimate government in Afghanistan.”

Some administration officials and members of Congress, who question whether the U.S. should step up its involvement as McChrystal recommends, cite the risk that the fraud allegations could erode the strength of the Afghan government.

“We should let the Afghans decide whether they consider the elections to be credible or not,” Rasmussen said.

The NATO leader also said Afghan women now can walk freely in the streets, hold jobs and serve in parliament, and that al- Qaeda has no haven and no training camps in Afghanistan. “These are huge achievements in just eight years,â€

The mission in Afghanistan is broader than just attacking al-Qaeda, said Rasmussen, who was making his first speech in the U.S. since taking over as the alliance’s top official on Aug. 1.

Regional Stability

Should the Taliban take over the country again, they would harbor terrorists as they did before, neighboring Pakistan would be destabilized and militant attacks would spread throughout the region and beyond, he said.

Afghanistan demonstrates how NATO’s territorial defenses now and in the future begin far beyond the borders of the alliance members, Rasmussen said.

“NATO will stay for as long as it takes to succeed,” he said. “But that cannot mean forever.”

Rasmussen has said he opposes a timetable for withdrawing international forces from Afghanistan for fear the Taliban will use it to persuade Afghans that the U.S. and its allies are planning a “run for the exits.”

He pledged yesterday to push U.S. allies to provide necessary resources for increased training of Afghan forces.

He cautioned the U.S. against criticizing European partners in NATO for not sending more troops or restricting the mission of their forces in a way that limits their ability to fight. All 28 NATO member nations are part of the mission and more than 20 countries have lost soldiers there.

“Talking down the European and Canadian contributions as some here in the United States have done can become a self- fulfilling prophecy,” Rasmussen said.

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