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General Stanley McChrystal, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan says the situation there is serious and success is not assured. Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the general said it is the Afghan people who will decide who is winning or losing.
General Stanley McChrystal says there is no simple solution in Afghanistan.
"It is complex difficult terrain, both the land and the people, it is a tribal society with a culture vastly different from what most of us are familiar with and it varies around the country, so you cannot assume what is true in one province is true in another," he said.
General McChrystal says who is winning right now depends on who you ask. He says it is not a game, but more like a political debate in which both sides claim victory.
"We are not the scorekeepers, not NATO, ISAF, not our governments, not even our press. The perception on all those entities will matter, they will affect the situation, but in the end this is going to be decided in the minds and the perceptions of the Afghan people," he added.
McChrystal says the force must focus on winning the confidence of the people. He says there have been improvements, in areas such as education and building infrastructure, but in other areas the situation is deteriorating.
"A tremendous number of villagers live in fear, and we have officials who either can not or do not serve their people effectively, and violence is up, and it is not up only because there are more coalition forces, it is up because the insurgency has grown," continued McChrystal.
McChrystal says his forces will need to do things dramatically differently to stop the insurgency.
"We must gain the initiative by reversing the perceived momentum of the insurgents. We must seek rapid growth of Afghan national security forces, and that is the army and the police, and we must improve their effectiveness and our own through closer partnering, and this means we must plan together, live together, operate together and take advantage of each other's strengths as we move forward," he said.
After eight years, McChrystal says the Afghan people are growing weary, and the forces need to show results soon.
"We need to reverse the current trends, and time does matter," said McChrystal. "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, public support will not last indefinitely, but the cruel irony is to succeed, we need patience, discipline, resolve and time."
McChrystal has reportedly requested thousands more troops to help him make Afghanistan a stable, secure country, and eventually able to look after itself, his definition for success there.
U.S. President Barack Obama, along with other NATO leaders, are apparently considering that request. Resolve in Europe has been wavering with Italy's prime minister recently saying he wants to get his troops out as soon as possible. McChrystal says that is what everyone wants, but not before Afghanistan is stable.