News / Asia

Commander Cites Progress in Afghanistan, but Key Analyst Remains Skeptical

US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)
US troops in Afghanistan (file photo)

The operational commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan says his forces made good progress last year, and are working through the winter to create a less hospitable environment for Taliban fighters when they return to the battlefield in the spring.  But a senior analyst of the war says 2010 was not as good as it could have been, and is calling for some changes in strategy.  

General David Rodriguez said the past year, with more international and Afghan forces and a better coordinated effort with civilian agencies, has brought expanded areas of security and improved the lives of ordinary Afghans.

He told a Pentagon news conference that during the current winter lull in fighting, when Taliban fighters blend in with the local population or flee to Pakistan, his forces are working to make it difficult for the insurgents to launch a spring offensive.

“Our immediate focus right now is to accelerate certain effects throughout the wintertime, a time that traditionally sees less violence, when the enemy refits, rearms, retrains, and prepares for the upcoming spring and summer operations. And while this is going on, we're conducing shaping operations to make the environment for the enemy much more inhospitable than it was last year,” he said.

General Rodriguez said the presence of more international and Afghan troops, and more Afghan civilian officials in previously Taliban-controlled areas, have helped make progress that he believes will be more durable than in the past.  He said the people are reporting on more Taliban bases and weapons caches, and his forces are effectively targeting insurgent leaders.  
But General Rodriguez also acknowledged there is much work to do, saying the Taliban “is not on the ropes” and will try to come back strong in the spring.  The general predicts the group will not directly confront international and Afghan forces, as it did last year, but rather will adopt a new strategy.

“Because of the different conditions there, they're going to come back with a different type of strategy, the enemy is, which I believe is going to be focused on the leadership much more than it ever has, the political leadership, the people who are supported the government, and the government leaders,” he said.

The general says the Taliban will also likely target former members of the group who have gone over to the government side.  He says the formal reintegration program now has about 1,000 participants, and the Afghan government system is in place to accept more.  

Indeed, much of the general’s assessment focused on troops, civilians and systems put in place for more progress this year.

But one longtime analyst of the Afghanistan war says that is a disappointing report for what was the ninth year of the conflict.  Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution published a paper Tuesday calling for strategy adjustments to make faster and more long-lasting advances in governance and the fight against corruption, and to inspire more help from Pakistan in closing insurgent safe havens on its side of the border.

“I don’t think 2010 was a disaster.  There were a lot of good things that happened in 2010.  But let’s not get too caught up in talking positively just for the sake of maintaining national morale,” O'Hanlon said.

O’Hanlon, whose Iraq war analysis helped turn the tide of American public opinion toward more patience at a key stage in 2007, is not particularly impressed with General Rodriguez’s claim of success toward establishing the groundwork for progress this year.

“I don’t really disagree and I’m not really on the opposite side of the debate from General Rodriguez.  I would consider myself an admirer and supporter of what he’s trying to do overall.  But I’m also a skeptic.  I’m struck by the fairly low standard that’s being held out here to claim success,” he said.

O’Hanlon is particularly concerned that violence should come down sharply in 2011, that normalcy should return to more areas and that the Afghan government should actually do a better job of delivering services - rather than just making preparations to do so.  If that doesn’t begin to happen within the next few months, he says the United States should consider a more significant strategy change -- including a faster U.S. troop withdrawal, a slower expansion of security zones and an accelerated transition to Afghan responsibility.

On the issue of Pakistani help, General Rodriguez said he would like to see Pakistani forces do more along the border to destroy Afghan insurgent safe havens.  But he said if they do not enter some key areas, such as North Waziristan, that would not be a “mission stopper” for his effort to defeat the Taliban inside Afghansitan.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More